Dinkytown uses murals to prevent graffiti

Business owners hope the murals will save them from having to clean up after vandals.

Kathryn Nelson

Skott Johnson, a 17-year Dinkytown veteran, used to spend countless hours covering the graffiti that frequently appeared on his building’s exterior.

“I’d be out there twice a week painting over graffiti,” he said.

But because of a new neighborhood effort, his building is now graffiti-free.

Graphic design senior Sergey Trubetskoy and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association launched a communitywide plan in July designed to deter neighborhood graffiti and rejuvenate the worn exteriors of local Dinkytown businesses.

The murals come soon after the Minneapolis City Council in May passed an ordinance requiring property owners and residents to clean up graffiti within 10 days – half the time previously allotted.

Autographics, a copy shop owned by Johnson on 13th Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast, was the first business to have a completed mural.

This spring, Trubetskoy approached Johnson, who is Dinkytown Business Association president, with an innovative idea to discourage “taggers” from targeting the building.

Financed exclusively by Autographics and himself, Trubetskoy designed and painted the “Positively 4th Street” mural featuring folk musician Bob Dylan in May.

Trubetskoy’s mural attracted the attention of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program Committee, which provides money to enhance local neighborhoods through community delegation.

Elissa Cottle, director of the committee, said Dinkytown businesses needed to find a creative way to deter neighborhood graffiti, but owners were hard-pressed to find a pre-emptive solution to the problem.

After Johnson presented his success story, the neighborhood board commissioned Trubetskoy to paint six more murals in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

The board approved $5,500 for the murals, Cottle said.

The design
In planning his paintings, Trubetskoy said it was important to create “historical murals” that deterred graffiti and also revived the Dinkytown of yesteryear.

He said he chose a 1960s and ’70s nostalgia theme for the project, principally highlighting artists and symbols that have roots in the Dinkytown area.

The Burrito Loco mural features a peace protest in blues and whites and Avalon has a “Welcome to Dinkytown” painting.

Using research compiled at the University, Trubetskoy designs, proposes and paints the murals in about a week.

The result
Trubetskoy completed four murals this summer and two more are scheduled for completion this fall.

Hannah Meacock, The Refinery assistant salon director, said she likes seeing artwork in the community.

She said the murals “bring a sort of visual cohesiveness to Dinkytown.”

While business owners welcome the murals, some in the community value graffiti as an art form.

Juxtaposition Arts, an organization that encourages the use of nontraditional mediums such as aerosol cans and paint rollers, said it’s important to offer a variety of different outlets for creativity.

But Roger Cummings, founder of the program, said “graffiti art isn’t for everyone.”

For Johnson, graffiti was more of a nuisance than an art form and money used to repaint his building seemed like a waste.

“This is the best spent money in a long time,” he said.