Artwork aims to help reduce crime and beautify neighborhood in diverse Rockwood

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Members of Greshams Youth Advisory Council paint a new mural in Rockwood that will help reduce crime and remember a teenager who was killed after a hate crime. Gresham youths are working on a second mural project at the site of a racially motivated murder from 2016.

Members of Gresham's Youth Advisory Council began painting the mural Wednesday, May 30, at the Rockwood 7-Eleven, 19735 E. Burnside St. The art was designed by the students as a way to showcase the diverse people living in the community, and should be completed by Friday, June 8.

"We wanted to make something appealing to look at that also had a deeper meaning," said Sophie Vawter, a Centennial High School senior.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Teo Ramirez, a Gresham High School senior, worked on both murals at the 7-Eleven in Rockwood, 19735 E. Burnside St.Four members of the Youth Council helped paint the mural, with Vawter being joined by three students from Gresham High School — senior Teo Ramirez, freshman Jenni Ruiz and senior Kayla Valdivia-Lopez. Brock Stein, whose artist name is "Arise," helped the kids conceptualize the artwork and paint it on the wall.

"It's fun to see everyone get involved," Stein said. "The best part about public art is when you drive by and get to see the positive impact you had."

OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Larnell Bruce, 19, was killed in 2016 after a hate crime at the site of the new mural.The site for the mural was chosen because it helps memorialize African American teenager Larnell Bruce, 19, who was killed when he was hit by a car driven by two people linked to white supremacist groups. The new mural is on the other side of the 7-Eleven from where the first mural was completed, and depicts people of all races and professions. Both promote bright, positive vibes in the community through messages of inclusivity and love.

"The hate crime happened right on this corner, so we wanted to help beautify the community," said Ramirez, who also painted the first mural.

Two Gresham Police officers, Chris Watkins and Steve Taylor, also helped spur the new mural because of the high rate of crime in that area.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham High School freshman Jenni Ruiz helps paint the new Rockwood mural."This is a chronic place for drugs and alcohol, and public art like this can help reduce those crimes," Watkins said.

The side of the business was consistently getting tagged by vandals, so the art should prevent that from happening. The first mural, which has been there for almost two years, hasn't been vandalized despite being painted in what used to be a trouble spot.

The plan is to continue bringing more community murals into Rockwood.

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