Youth in Burien paint 'no more violence' mural amid countywide uptick in crime

Young people in Burien are tired of the violence in their community, and with the help of nonprofit Urban ArtWorks, they used art to voice their message for safer neighborhoods.

"I’m never ceased to be amazed at how insightful young people are and how aware they are of what’s going on in their world," said teaching artist Scott Mexcal.

Urban ArtWorks uses public art to engage young people in creative practice, build community and encourage expression. 

Fifteen teenagers in the New Futures program collaborated with Urban ArtWorks to create a 25-foot mural on the exterior wall of a local market on Ambaum Blvd SW. The project was part of a six-week summer program where students worked together on mural ideas that demonstrated their Latin heritage, visions for the future, climate control and stopping the violence in Burien.

RELATED: King County seeing rise in gun violence, particularly with younger victims

"They are as tired of the violence as many of the adults that live there. So, they wanted to communicate a message that they want it to stop and they’re committed to ending violence in their neighborhood," said Mexcal.

The King County Sheriff’s Office said no community has been untouched by the uptick in violence this year, including Burien with two deadly shootings in June.

Mexcal said the spot the group chose to paint the mural even had a troubled past. 

"The site was not only physically an area where two young women were murdered in 2019, but that wall was actually where gang graffiti was happening that led to those murders. So, for us to come in and create a mural at that site was really important to create a new narrative about what that space is about," said Mexcal.

RELATED: Gun violence concerns rise after shooting in Burien marks 17th homicide in King County

During the six-week program, each student also wrote down ideas for a healthier future. They worked with local poets putting all of their ideas together and formed a collaborative poem. 

Mexcal said while most of his students on the project are still learning to speak English, he wants them to continue using art as their creative voice towards positive change.

"I hope that the youth feel like they have a voice and that they really are empowered to shape their future however they want. And they get to be the authors of the narrative that gets told about their community," said Mexcal. "I really think that that’s how we create change and how we create the world that we all want to see."

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