Graffiti artist gives young new way to express frustrations, hopes

‘‘We have all been youth and we have all been in trouble.''

New York graffiti artist Eric Orr was in Alexandra yesterday teaching 13 young people the importance of having a productive medium with which to express their frustrations, anger, hopes, and dreams.

Growing up in South Bronx, Mr Orr said from an early age he realised young people needed to gain attention, whether it was by tagging their name on a building or wearing outrageous clothing.

During his long career as an artist, he gained satisfaction giving young people an opportunity to release their inner feelings. He was travelling throughout New Zealand running day-long youth development programmes in the search for budding talent.

‘‘It's about kids having their voice heard. Youth are the ones who are inverted and don't know how to show their wants and needs . . . sometimes when they do it can be destructive,'' he said.

Mr Orr stopped using spray paint as a means to produce his art about 10 years into his career, as it was ‘‘poisonous'', and he adapted his style into more iconic imagery.

‘‘It's not about the spray can, it's about creating an identity, and by using that simple little icon or character I got much more recognition than a lot of major graffiti artists in New York at the time.

People were hard to distinguish because they were all doing the same thing, so I just started painting this little logo inside subway stations in the city,'' he said.

At his fifth New Zealand youth development programme yesterday, Mr Orr encouraged young people to paint using environmentally-friendly materials.

Creating a three-panel mural depicting parts of Alexandra involved litres of paint, a sausage sizzle, and plenty of motivation.

The mural would be perman ently positioned on an outside wall at the centre, and Mr Orr hoped it would spur the creative talents of those involved, as well as those of others around the town.

Central Otago Rural Educa tion Activities Programme member Kathi Mclean organised Mr Orr's visit to Alexandra last year while at an art confer ence in Rotorua. ‘‘It was about being in the right place at the right time,'' Mrs McLean said.

Sponsorship and commissions for various works enabled Mr Orr to run the programmes. The next ones would be in Wanaka, Hamilton and Rotorua.

‘‘Some youth really believe they are in a position where they have nothing to do, so it's just about showing them the possibility. I'm trying to get them excited about their surroundings again,'' he said.



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