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Neighbors in Pueblo's East Side stand up to gangs through art - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Neighbors in Pueblo's East Side stand up to gangs through art

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Mural created by Gang Alternative Program of Pueblo with help of East Side neighborhood kids Mural created by Gang Alternative Program of Pueblo with help of East Side neighborhood kids
PUEBLO -  Neighbors in Pueblo's East Side are standing up to gang activity in the area through art. Volunteers from two organizations are encouraging local kids to get involved in community activities, and show them that there is a positive way to leave their mark.

The Gang Alternative Program of Pueblo has been around for 20 years, made up of volunteers who have painted about a dozen murals throughout town. Coordinator Frankie Arteaga says, "I have a lot of concern for the kids. A lot of them are lost without any direction or role models, so we try to provide that opportunity for them to become artists, if you will. Even if they just paint one section here, at least they had a part in it."

GAPP is getting ready to start some new paintings, refresh some of the old, and cover up the wide array of graffiti on the East Side through a project called Murals vs. Graffiti.

Neighbors hope it will help eliminate the fear they have grown accustomed to feeling in their own home. "Years ago I would walk the streets when I was a kid and never be afraid," says Julia Farris, who grew up on the East Side. "Now I go to bed at 7 o'clock at night when it gets dark. I don't go outside no more."

Newly-formed East Side Action Support Team, or EAST, is working with the Urban Renewal Project to spruce up the neighborhood starting with 4th Street. It is comprised of business owners and groups like the Boys & Girls Club, and members also teach music and art to kids at the Pueblo House.

"A group of concerned citizens all came together and decided, yeah we didn't like the stigma attached to the East Side," explains Pueblo House founder Janet Wilson, "whether it's warranted or not, and how do we change it and make it a safer place and a more beautiful place?"

Volunteers for both projects hope targeting young minds will help draw them away from violence and rid the community of gangs altogether. Arteaga says, "Just because you write your name on a wall doesn't make you an artist. It makes you a vandal, so do you want to become a part of something that's respected, or do you want to become a part of something that's really disliked?"

EAST is hosting a clean-up day on March 21 near Fountain Creek. Volunteers are meeting at 9 a.m. at Vasquez Taco Shop on 4th Street, and plan to pick up trash and clear weeds from the area.

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