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East Palo Alto is a vibrant, artistic, and culturally rich minority-majority city that suffers from violence, economic hardship, substance abuse, and educational inequality. In the summer of 2013 during a surge of violence, the city manager and police chief approached Mural Music & Arts Project (the Project) about creative ways it could support community youth in neighborhoods plagued by gun violence. Using East Palo Alto’s Shot Spotter, the Project decided to use the city’s “hot-spots,” which are seen as the city’s most dangerous locations, for artistic beautification and experimentation.

Lead artist Edward “Scape” Martinez is collaborating with five emerging youth artists to create “Voices of EPA,” two murals that will be installed at identified crime “hot spots” to promote peace and unity. Selected youth artists will work alongside Scape to spread awareness about the project—developing an outreach process leading to a community design workshop. Multi-generational East Palo Alto residents will be invited to contribute ideas for the murals’ concepts, colors, and content.

Scape is an established graffiti artist and writer. His work has been displayed in museums and galleries regionally, nationally, and internationally. He is a strong advocate for young adults and has published several books about graffiti arts. This project will shift his role from being a youth educator to being an artist working alongside talented youth. Founded in 2001, the Project is an arts-based youth development organization aimed at educating, empowering, and inspiring youth through participation in the arts.

Photo credit: Di’s Free Range Photos