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Making their mark
Pre-emptive graffiti-a-thon draws large turnout; overnight defacement offensive and removed

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 21, 2012

The shaking of spray cans, rap music, and the general chatter of youth could be heard from the Inuvik skate park Saturday.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jacob Lennie concentrates on his artwork during Saturday's graffiti-a-thon at the skate park near the Youth Centre. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

However, these youth were not gathered to cause trouble or vandalize town property. In a pre-emptive move against such things, the Town of Inuvik held a graffiti-a-thon over the weekend with the intent of decorating Inuvik's year-old skate park before more delinquent taggers had a chance to make their mark.

"Basically, we wanted people to come out and put some colour on the skateboard park," said Rose Constantineau, recreation co-ordinator for the Town of Inuvik. "We're bringing graffiti to the kids and getting their creative juices flowing."

Well over 50 participants made their mark on the skate park throughout the day Saturday. Popular tags were the children's names, the word "Inuvik" and "East 3" the recently announced name of the new school.

"This is awesome," said Inuvik youth Isaiah English-Charlie of the event. English-Charlie also won a Big Foot longboard raffled off during the event.

The graffiti-a-thon also had a somewhat serious purpose, which was to prevent any destructive tagging at the park by promoting positive graffiti in the space.

"We wanted to make sure that the tagging was appropriate," said Constantineau. "But it really brings the community together to have a nice park."

The event was not just for teenage taggers. Toddlers, families, and more than a few adults made their mark on the park throughout the course of the day.

"The important thing here is that whatever they put here is going to be here 10 years from now, and that's something they dig as well," said Tony Devlin, director of community services.

The new skate park was built during the summer of 2011 to replace an aging wooden park that was located near Samuel Hearne Secondary School.

Skateboarding has always had a presence in Inuvik, said Devlin.

"It's recreation. It keeps kids active and healthy, and it's something that municipalities in the last 10 years have accepted," he said.

The best laid plans are, however, sometimes thwarted.

Overnight after the graffiti-a-thon, some Inuvik youth used the empty paint cans left in an unsecured garbage to deface the skate park in earnest, painting swear words, offensive symbols and their names over areas such as the the ramps, which were not supposed to be painted.

"I think that some of our youth were a bit over-exuberant, and once there were no eyes on them they decided to continue their artwork," said Devlin. "Unfortunately, it was offensive and it was on the ramps that we weren't planning on painting."

Town officials took care of the situation by quickly painting over the affected area, while leaving the legitimate artwork on the ground surfaces of the skate park.

Devlin also said that the fact that the youth in question tagged their names on their work made it much easier to know who it was and deal with those young people.

"Youth are youth; they do stupid things," said Devlin. "It was the offensive nature of it that threw us off. There's no place for that in Inuvik."

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