In April 2023, Friends of the Riverfront undertook a planned refresh of the Color Park, a public graffiti park and popular destination along the South Side segment of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The refresh took place in two stages – the first was the documentation of current art and the application of white primer, while the second was the application of color blocks and an invitation to create new art on the fresh surface.
Along with the local artist Baron Batch, Friends of the Riverfront opened the Color Park in 2017 to offer a place for graffiti artists to work without the usual legal consequences.
Although long delayed by COVID-19 concerns and urgent trail maintenance needs, regular refreshes were part of the original concept of the park. The need for a refresh had become clear because of the growth of graffiti well past the park boundaries and onto the surface of the trail, and because some of the graffiti included hate speech and obscenities.
While the refresh was publicly announced, the news did not circulate widely and many in the community felt unprepared for it, or weren’t clear about the goals for it. While most reactions were positive, some were not.
Since the refresh, a number of local graffiti artists have repeatedly defaced the trail, informational and historic signage, amenities like benches, and areas far outside Color Park with messages that again include hate speech and obscene language and images.
Friends of the Riverfront wants to preserve Color Park, but as a nonprofit with limited resources, it has become increasingly difficult for us to keep up with the ongoing reaction, and the situation means that the future of the Color Park could be in doubt.
Friends has posted an open letter and invitation to graffiti artists to work with us to find a way forward. We are hopeful that those who have been angered by the Color Park refresh can engage in a dialogue with us and help us to manage the park more productively.