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New I-293 soundwall already a target of graffiti artists

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 07. 2014 8:15PM
Graffiti mars the newly installed soundwalls on Interstate 293 in Manchester. (Mark Hayward/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — New highway sound walls, erected about a month ago along Interstate 293, have already been the target of at least one graffiti artist, and police say the lengthy structures will likely become a favorite for youths with a can of spray paint and a creative urge.

A 35-foot-long, multi-colored graffiti piece appeared on the wall in the last couple of weeks. Nearly 2,000 foot of sound wall, some nearly 30 feet high, is being installed along the highway as part of the project.

The first painting appeared near the northernmost portion of the wall, where it could be easily accessed through backyards and via a bridge abutment. The three-colored graffiti was painted on both horizontal wooden planks and concrete posts of the soundwall.

Sgt. Brian O’Keefe, a spokesman for Manchester police, said the high visibility of the walls will make them a natural for graffiti artists.

“It’s a giant, blank canvas for an aspiring artist,” O’Keefe said. He said the lettering is hard to read, which makes the graffiti consistent with the Wildstyle brand that originated in New York City in the 1970s and 80s.

According to the website, Wildstyle incorporates complicated, stylized writing.

“Wildstyle writing features arrows, spikes, curves and other elements that non-graffiti artists may have a hard time understanding. Wildstyle pieces are often 3D and considered to be one of the most complicated forms of graffiti,” the website reads.

A small piece of graffiti was sprayed onto the spot about four days after the soundwall was constructed in early July. About four days later, the current graffiti covered the original piece, said a highway construction worker who would not give his name.

O’Keefe said it will be difficult to catch whoever draws on the wall. Graffiti artists usually work late at night, and police have to catch them in order to get a successful conviction.

“It’s very happenstance,” O’Keefe said.

But last week, police were lucky to make an arrest when they spotted a 19-year-old jumping off a Franklin Street building, and newly painted graffiti nearby, he said.

The latest graffiti will likely stay around.

William Boynton, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said project contractors are not typically responsible for removing graffiti.

The DOT may pay the contractor to remove the graffiti, but that’s not usually done until the end of the project.

He said the DOT does clean graffiti from sound walls and bridge abutments, but concentrates on “particularly offensive language or drawings.”

“The Department of Transportation has limited resources to chase after all the graffiti artists, especially when prioritized against critical bridge or highway deficiencies,” Boynton said.

Crime, law and justice General News Manchester

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