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Weld County Mural Project gives at-risk teens an art outlet

The Greeley Tribune, Aug. 5, 2011

As part of the third annual Weld County Mural Project, teens were given the chance to use graffiti art as a positive tool to fight drug and alcohol abuse.

Five recovering teens of the team Colorado's Youth gathered at the Weld County Training Center on Friday to receive spray-can training to create murals with anti-drug messages.

The murals will be displayed throughout Weld County in late September.

"We never get a chance to do projects like these," a teen from Colorado's Youth said. "I was doing graffiti on the streets, so it is nice to do this art for a positive message."

The mural project kick-off celebration, hosted by the Colorado Meth Project, started with a presentation by Youth and Family Connections youth coordinator Jessica Miller on the history of the mural event and the harmful effects of drugs. Miller said Colorado's Youth will create a mural on an 8-foot-by-16-foot portable wall near the old Warnoco skate rink. Members of the Youth Enrichment Group, who did not attend the kick-off, will also be a part of the mural project as they will paint on a physical wall on 13th Avenue.

"This is a substance abuse prevention event for at-risk kids," Miller said. "Many people think we are teaching these kids to tag, but really we are trying to teach them an art skill while spreading a positive message. This mural project gives the teens an outlet and an alternative to drugs."

Twenty-two-year-old Ratha Sok, an art student at Metropolitan State College who turned his passion for graffiti into the business RAWH Expressions, volunteered to teach basic spray-painting skills. The students, with direction from Sok, got the chance to show off their newfound skills on a mobile tarp that served as a pledge wall against meth.

"I came from a rough background and I was in trouble with law for my graffiti," Sok said. "Besides teaching students basic can skills, I want to show them there are more positive ways to pursue what you are passionate about."