The crew assembled early Friday morning at the Dulux Paints location at 19 Speedvale Avenue E., ready to get to work on graffiti.
Fuelled by coffee and muffins, they fanned out into Guelph’s downtown, armed with buckets of paint, rollers and trays. They were noticeable in their Dulux “Colourful Communities” t-shirts.
About 20 people enlisted in the Around Town Wash Down, a Dulux Paints sponsored community service intent on covering up unsightly graffiti on private property. Alerted in advance to graffiti in specific locations, the volunteers covered tags on buildings, bridges and walls throughout the day, all in an effort to beautify the downtown.
Dulux Paints donated the paint, rollers, solvents, drop-cloths, t-shirts, coffee and treats.
Paul Deacon, a Guelph resident who wants to keep the city beautiful, organized the effort.
“This is an experiment,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people who are really quite interested in doing it.”
He said he was inspired by a similar clean-up that happened nine long years ago, called the Downtown Wash Down. There hadn’t been another one like it until Friday.
“I personally don’t have a problem with artistic murals or anything that is sanctioned by the property owner,” Deacon said, as volunteers arrived at Dulux Paints bright and early. “If they want tags on their walls that’s up to them. What we’re trying to do here is bring Guelph back to a neutral position. If a wall is meant to be taupe brown, that’s what we’re going to paint it.”
He said it would be good to have a broad-based conversation in the community about public art and mural policy.
“There isn’t one in Guelph at the moment,” he said. “We should look at what we want to do to combat the problem, as some people see it, of graffiti and illegal scribbling on walls.”
He hoped the wash down would spur some public debate on “what we want to live with in the public realm.”
Many the business owners in the downtown do not own the buildings they are located in, he said. Vandalism on the walls of the buildings are not their fault, and not necessarily their responsibility to clean up.
“A lot of landlords who own buildings in Guelph don’t live in Guelph,” he added. “They are not always aware of what is happening to their buildings. They are not here to see what is going on day-to-day.”
A number of those building owners, he indicated, appreciate what the volunteer graffiti removers are doing. Deacon said it falls to people living in the community to pitch in and help keep the city beautiful.
Leigh-Ann Rowe is the manager of Dulux Paints on Speedvale.
“We do our Colourful Community projects throughout the year,” she said. “It gets us out into the community, and helps us beautify the cities that we live in.”
The program assists organizations that may not have a budget for paint brighten their properties and their lives, she said.
“It’s a really friendly, upbeat group of people that usually come out,” she added. “The volunteers are ready to go, and it’s a fun day.”