Health & Family

Clean graffiti used to spread positive messaging

Members of the West Charlotte High IB Art 3 class sit with their idea books open last month as a group makes a  presentation during class.
Members of the West Charlotte High IB Art 3 class sit with their idea books open last month as a group makes a presentation during class.

It is said that art is subjective, but can inspire strong emotions. Charlotte-based branding company #thesavageway believes that artistic expression should be both positive and impactful.

This concept of positive messaging inspired the company’s recent partnership with West Charlotte High School.

Committed to creating positive messages and a strong belief in community, founders Torrie Savage and Paula Bartlett wanted to do more.

“It all happened organically,” Savage said. “We were networking and heard about (Queen City Soup) and about using art as a way to bring positive messages to areas in need.”

In 2014, #thesavageway applied for and won the Project Art Aid’s Queen City Soup micro grant, a grant for emerging and established artists and community activists. Their winning concept was to use clean graffiti to clean positive messaging, in Spanish and English, in high-risk neighborhoods around Charlotte.

Clean Graffiti is a technique where pressurized water is used to ‘clean’ a message onto sidewalks.

After winning the grant, #thesavageway partnered with Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership & Investment For Transformation), a non-profit organization focused on creative approaches to teaching at risk students and impacts nine schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System.

“I was unfamiliar with clean graffiti, but a quick search online revealed a powerful and positive medium,” said Susan Norwood, Executive Coordinator for Project L.I.F.T.

“Knowing the talent level of many of our scholars and the community service aspect of the International Baccalaureate program at West Charlotte, I asked (#thesavageway) to consider letting students be involved in the creation process,” Norwood said.

“I was sold right away,” said Beverly Smith, Art Director at West Charlotte High. “Having the opportunity to provide my students with an art experience that was earth friendly, as well as an opportunity to share positive thoughts with their peers was the perfect combination.”

With guidance from #thesavageway, students were tasked with creating the positive message. Divided into two teams, the students researched clean graffiti and created design and messaging campaigns that would eventually be judged by Savage and Bartlett. The winning design would be made into a stencil and cleaned in areas around West Charlotte High, selected community locations, as well as each Project L.I.F.T. school.

“It took on a life of its own,” Bartlett said. “To watch the students on their journey of discovering clean graffiti and seeing them get excited was so cool to see.”

In March, the groups presented their campaigns. Judged on overall concept, creativity, concise messaging, and ability to be easily ‘cleaned’ into sidewalks, the winning concept was “We Rise by Lifting Others.”

“At a time when they and their peers are experiencing uncertainty at their school, these students took advantage of the program to encourage the community to rely on one another for strength,” said Smith.

“Going into this process, we had zero idea of what to expect,” Bartlett said. “And then we saw their work – they created beautiful artwork. We can’t wait to see their reactions when it is finally executed.”