When Phoenix Hostel owner Mary Stephens got permission from the owners of a vacant lot near Seventh and Roosevelt streets to turn the dirtscape into a community art project, one of her ideas was to have murals painted all along the brick wall that girdled the field. Unfortunately, she never got farther than the first mural – a desert landscape done in the colors of the Arizona flag, sprayed with the words “Derechos Humanos” (“Human Rights” in Spanish).
Urban graffiti artist DOSE headed up the project, rounding up volunteers – mostly youth from the surrounding neighborhoods – and painting the wall with supplies purchased with a $500 donation from the International Rescue Committee. But one of the two owners of the vacant lot absolutely abhorred the art. “He was very unhappy that it was in Spanish. He took personal offense to that,” Stephens says.
The non-offended owner of the blighted lot received letters of complaint and was eventually pressured into painting over the mural. DOSE came back to the hostel and helped kids from the neighborhood re-paint the mural on the alley-facing wall behind the hostel. “We’ve had so much success otherwise, but that was an eye-opener in terms of my political self,” Stephens says. “These are the realities of this neighborhood. So we keep chipping away. That’s just one of many projects, and it’s like anything: You learn.”
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