Building at former TS&S site will be open for painters in effort to slow hits of public graffiti

 - The old office building at the former Thomas Sales and Service lot at Seventh and C streets will become a public canvas for artists to express themselves "respectfully."

This City of Madras is getting ready to unveil its latest, and likely most unexpected, public art installation. The artist may be a sixth grader, a 70-year-old, the next Salvador Dali, or you.

Both the gallery and the artwork will be the old sales office of the former Thomas Sales and Service Ford dealership at Seventh and C streets.

"The Thomas family donated the lot to the city to be used for the public," says Madras Public Works Director Jeff Hurd. "We're renovating it to become a canvas."

Once the canvas is ready, which should happen before summer, anyone is welcome to bring her paints and set free her inner artist. Just know your art will live only until the next artist comes along to take his turn.

"We know people need a place to express themselves artistically," says Hurd. "This will hopefully deter people from doing it on public buildings. This gives them an outlet to do things and do it respectfully."

The city defines "respectfully" with a list of rules it will post at the site. Generally, artists should keep their art family friendly, use safe paints, and only paints. The walls are a canvas, not a sculpture.

"Don't abuse it, or we'll cover it up." Hurd says his crews drive by the site regularly and can monitor the murals.

Madras has seen an increase in graffiti lately. City police are trying to crack down, asking citizens to report suspicious activity, and businesses with surveillance cameras to share any helpful videos.

The community painting project is an unconventional way to squelch unwanted graffiti.

Other cities that have used this approach have seen tagging decrease on buildings.

In Hurd's research, he recalls a city that had a graffiti problem on a wall near a multi-use path, until they turned the wall into an intentional canvas.

"People took pride in it and they self-regulated. I'm hoping we get the same response, and people will do some really cool artwork. I'm kinda stoked," says Hurd.

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