“We want people to feel empowered to be a part of the solution,” said Gary Wasdin, Executive Director for the Omaha Public Library, of the new graffiti kits available at the South Omaha branch.
Wasdin said the South Omaha graffiti kits project was launched in partnership with the Neighborhood Center. The graffiti kits provide South Omaha residents with tools to help fight the graffiti problem there.
The kits include rubber gloves, graffiti removal wipes, sandpaper, gray spray paint and a special cloth (the same ones used everywhere for removing graffiti). Anyone who is interested may pick up a kit at the South Omaha Branch at no charge.
“It is a small kit but it gives people the ability to take care of graffiti themselves, whether they encounter it at home or their place of business,” said Wasdin.
He said graffiti in South Omaha has been on the rise, so the city is undertaking a number of efforts to combat that. The graffiti kits are just one small part of the charge.
Wasdin said the kits are meant offer individuals or families who encounter small, single instances of graffiti to get rid of it and do it quickly.
“The quicker you get rid of it, the quicker the problem goes away. Graffiti has a tendency to spread rapidly if left unchecked,” Wasdin said.
But, Wasdin said if you are seeing repeated graffiti in a particular location, you should report it to the police. Individuals may always call the city hotline and their team will come out and take care of it.
Wasdin said the idea for the graffiti kits came about a few months ago at a meeting between the Neighborhood Center and the library. The groups discussed items of importance and one issue that kept coming up was the idea of dealing with graffiti. He said the library had received lots of requests for these kits from Neighborhood Associations.
“With our South Omaha location, it just seemed like a great place for people to come and pick them up. They are free of charge and anyone may pick one up,” said Wasdin.
Marcos Mora is the Executive Director of the South Omaha Arts Institute. He said he does not want to see graffiti anywhere.
“I think it’s something that is going on all over the city, not just in South Omaha. I have seen it on the bike trails, by the railroad tracks and all over the downtown area. But because I am in South Omaha, obviously I see it more here,” said Mora.
He said the city of Omaha is good about coming out to clean up graffiti and he said they do it quickly. But Mora likes the idea of the graffiti kits because it gives individuals the opportunity to get rid of graffiti even faster.
“There is something everyone can do about graffiti. I am hopeful that more youth will decide to get involved with the effort,” he said.
Mora thinks the movement has to come from the youth. He feels sometimes kids could do a lot more and maybe be even more effective than some of the adults.
“We used to have youth dances and one time some kids tagged our building with graffiti. Two of the teenagers that were at the dance looked at it and they said they knew exactly who had done it. To us it was kind of foreign, but to them it wasn’t. They knew who the kids were based off the signatures and everything,” Mora said.
Ultimately, Mora said he thinks it is a good thing the graffiti kits are readily available for individuals who want to take care of graffiti quickly.
“It encourages everyone to be proactive,” said Mora.
And what about the argument that graffiti is art?
“I like graffiti. I am from New York City so I am accustomed to seeing graffiti. It’s not a matter of whether or not it’s art. It’s whether or not you have permission to spray paint on someone’s property,” answered Wasdin.
Graffiti kits are available at the South Omaha Library branch, 2808 Q Street
Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.