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The West Art District makes an eloquent statement on the power of art to build community 

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click to enlarge Harrison Rai at West Art District - PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett
  • Harrison Rai at West Art District

Rai tells me about a student who practices at the West Art District on a regular basis. "We took him in," he says. "His mom brought him over here. He'd gotten arrested for graffiti. So instead of him being on the street, now he just spends his time here. Now he doesn't get in trouble."

To promote a sense of community, they even offer scheduled one-hour lessons to anyone interested in dabbling in street art. Noun doubles as the resident art instructor, tutoring students of all demographics. They use a small alley tucked away within the parcel as a practice wall for novice painters. Most of their students are teens, many from the neighborhood, but the appointments are open to anyone, regardless of skill level or age.

"My oldest student is about 70," Noun says. "I pretty much try to teach them how to turn your aerosol-can cap into any other medium. ... A pencil, a pen, a paintbrush. It's just another form of paint, you know?"

Their goal is to help artists improve their talents and eventually learn to make a living from this art form.

"Eventually I want all these kids to learn how to monetize their skill and become commercial painters," Rai says. "These kids could actually make money because all these people see what we're doing here and they want us to paint their restaurants, their businesses."

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