Devin Brown unfolded a piece of paper and began reading his talk. He stood Friday in front of two vibrant paintings he and his friends created on a building that used to be covered in graffiti.
"Now everybody who drives down Glass Street will know that we did this," he said. "And it's beautiful because it belongs to us."
Brown, 16, is one of 14 area youths who worked for Mark Making, an organization that produces public art. Mark Making usually has professional artists paint huge murals — one at Riverfront Parkway at 19th Street covers 2,500 square feet — but this project was painted by local kids who don't have art experience, said Frances McDonald, executive director of Mark Making. The organization will continue to work its way down the street, adding colorful paintings to the community.
"I mean, look around," she said, pointing to graffiti-covered and rundown-looking buildings. "It looks pretty sad. And then, bam, you got color, you got shapes, it makes you feel like it's a better place."
McDonald's favorite part was handing the kids a paycheck. For some, it was the first paycheck they'd ever received. Work began Monday with designing, and Tuesday through Friday the kids were painting. For doing well, some kids earned a raise to $10 an hour. Brown estimated he made $200.
However, people could tag the walls with graffiti again. McDonald said the organization would quickly fix the mural if that happened, hopefully before any of the kids saw it.
"It's a diss," she said. "After they did this beautiful act in searing heat, I don't want them feeling dissed."
Brown stood in front of the mural on the left, the one he designed. He'd never done something like this before.
"I ain't know it was going to be this cool," he said, looking up at the shapes and colors. "I thought it was going to be like a normal painting on the wall, but it looks better than I expected."
Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.