Art unites local groups, makes community safer

Charles Rankin

Despite being postponed a day due to hot weather, ARTSConnect’s Topeka Mural Project continued on at Rip-On Skate Park June 18.

Developed by Joe Perry, ARTSConnect board member and lieutenant in the Topeka Police Department, the project is a program designed to prevent crime in the community through neighborhood and park artwork.

“It all is part of a theory called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED,” Perry said. “CPTED’s general premise comes down to the idea of finding areas that could be susceptible to crime, putting eyes on it and making it appear that people are watching it.”

The Mural Project uses artwork to bring those eyes to the areas and to make areas look prettier. There are eight previous murals around Topeka in areas such as Oakland, Hi-Crest and Meadows Elementary School.

“The Oakland neighborhood liked the mural so much and it made that part of the neighborhood look so nice,” Perry said. “It even convinced six people to paint their houses soon after.”

This type of response is one thing Perry hoped to accomplish by developing this project. Maintaining the appearance of houses with things like keeping up with paint helps to deter against small crimes such as vandalism according to what Perry described as the Broken Windows Theory.

“The theory basically states that if there is an abandoned house in a neighborhood with a broken window, people will be more likely to not care if a second or third window is broken,” Perry said. “That can lead to people occupying the house which can spiral down further to drug use and other more serious crimes taking place in the house.

One of the things that ARTSConnect does is bring the community together for the projects.

“We have artists get credentials for a general sketch or design of a mural and then have them come out on our paint days,” said Sarah Fizell, executive director for ARTSConnect. “We’ll then invite the community to come and help the artists with their murals.”

The Hi-Crest mural had community members from all ages come out to help with the painting.

“We had the artist sketch out the design on the wall then had everyone from small kids up to adults take the different colors of paint and put them in the right place to create the full mural,” Perry said.

At Rip-On, people who were biking and walking along the nearby Shunga Trail stopped by on this first paint day to see what kind of art was being put up. Some of the local skaters who frequent the park also got involved.

The Rip-On mural is continuing with a second paint day scheduled for June 24. If you would like to submit a design to be considered for this current project you can fill out a form on the project’s website.