Senator Tony Avella is aiming to erase any thoughts of vandalism from the minds of the students in his district – and paint them a clear anti-graffiti picture.
The senator joined representatives from the Bayside Business Association (BBA) and students from across northeast Queens on December 15 for his first annual Anti-Graffiti Poster Contest.
“Graffiti is a problem we need to address,” said Avella. “There’s enforcement, there’s corrective action like painting over it and washing it off, but there’s also education. Getting to the kids when they’re in school to let them know graffiti is bad is one of the best ways to eliminate it over time, and having kids tell their fellow peers that graffiti is bad is the best way to do this. So getting the word out by students talking to students is a big thing, and hopefully it will lead to a reduction of graffiti in the future.”
Beginning in September, Avella’s contest encouraged students to create artwork against graffiti. The competition was available to students of all ages, providing a wide spectrum of artistic interpretations. Winners and runners-up were chosen from three categories: elementary, middle and high school. Lauren Lashley, who finished first in the high school division, says her work was inspired by personal experiences.
“[I was motivated by] the terrible graffiti signs I would find outside my house,” said the 17-year-old senior at Martin Van Buren High School, whose poster idea came to her in a dream. “It really bothered me, and I knew people that lived nearby and they were so frustrated about it.”
All 550 participants received merit certificates for entering the contest, and Avella will attempt to place the posters in prominent positions throughout his district.
Due to a donation from the BBA, winners also received $100, with a second place finish earning students $50.
“We always give to everything that we can in Bayside, and what better cause than to give to children and to foster their imaginations,” said Judith Limpert, president of the BBA. “Anti-graffiti is important because it affects everybody. It’s a blight on the peace and tranquility of a neighborhood. We are trying to do anything we can to get the children to realize not to do it because it’s not conducive to a nice place to live.”
The elementary school winners – Lauren and Meagan Lovett and Nicole Kardum – based their poster on the environmental hazards of graffiti. Despite their hard work, the fourth graders at P.S. 162 refuse to be selfish with their prize money.
“We would like to donate [our winnings] to breast cancer [foundations],” said Kardum. “We don’t want to keep the money. We want to do something good with it.”