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Graffiti artists turn Cornwall Youth Centre into a colourful, fun, welcoming place

Trenton Smith, left, and Nolan Peters have brightened up the Cornwall Youth Centre by spray-painting a 40-foot section with the word 'Cornwall' in graffiti writing along with various cartoon characters.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Trenton Smith, left, and Nolan Peters have brightened up the Cornwall Youth Centre by spray-painting a 40-foot section with the word 'Cornwall' in graffiti writing along with various cartoon characters. ©THE GUARDIAN - Maureen Coulter

Graffiti artists Nolan Peters and Trenton Smith have used their artistic skills to turn a blank wall into a colourful piece of artwork at the Cornwall Youth Centre.

Peters, 21, and Smith, 20, of Charlottetown spray-painted the word ‘Cornwall’ in graffiti writing along with various cartoon characters to help make the space in the basement of West River United Church more colourful, fun and welcoming for youth in the community.

Peters says he finds the art of graffiti therapeutic.

“There is just something about that bigger canvas surface where you are just spreading it all out, turning something that is boring and mundane into something that is really interesting and colourful.”

“It’s like poetry, but with images,” said Smith. “You are able to express what your inner thoughts are through an image.”

Kara Acorn, youth worker at the Cornwall Youth Centre, said when the new youth centre opened in October 2017, she knew that something vibrant had to go on the back wall.

Acorn immediately thought of a graffiti mural.

“Graffiti can be a beautiful thing, if you find the right person, it’s art, not just spray paint in a can.”

Peters and Smith did the work while the youth were at the centre, giving them the opportunity to explain the process of graffiti art.

The youth were also active in selecting the cartoon characters depicted on the wall.

“It’s been a pretty fun process,” said Peters. “We tried to incorporate a lot of colour into it to make it a fun place for the kids.”

Peters and Smith began doing graffiti when they were 12 and 13, respectively.

Smith said the kaleidoscope colours drew him into this art form.

“I’ve always been an artist,” said Smith. “What got my attention with graffiti was the different colours and the vibrant skews they would use as well as the twist they would throw on their letters.”

Peters admits he got into it the wrong way by doing it illegally.

“It was more so out of boredom as a kid and not really having that sense of direction or mentorship in my life,” said Peters.

“Over the years, the main focus became about the art side of things and not so much about destroying people’s property.”

In light of his own experience, Peters made it a point to promote healthy expression when it comes to graffiti art to the youth at the Cornwall Youth Centre.

“I’ve talked to some of the youth and I’ve also tried to express that if you are interested in this type of stuff, try and keep it on your own property and paper.”

feels the mural is eye-catching and wants youth to walk into the centre feeling like it is a fun atmosphere.

“I want them to feel peace and I want them to feel inclusion. When they come in, I want them to feel like, ‘OK, this is a cool place to hang out, I can be me’.”

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