Local arts group remembers 9/11 with clean-up

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Michaela Kane | Arizona Daily Wildcat

Michaela Kane / The Daily Wildcat

Rose Taulton (left) and Roy Williams (right) help paint a railing at a community service event for the Tucson Arts Brigade on Sunday. The Tucson Arts Brigade met on Sunday to complete community service projects and to remember the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Tucson Arts Brigade met yesterday to clean up the community in remembrance of the 12-year anniversary of September 11.

“It’s a significant moment in American history,” said Tucson Arts Brigade Executive Director and Co-Founder Michael Schwartz.

“There’s still quite a few people who are reeling from that moment.”

The group began the tradition of cleaning and improving the city 12 years ago, the night the twin towers fell. The group, in reaction to the events, decided to unite and act to improve the community and respond in a way that would inspire people, Schwartz said.

“It’s about compassion and it’s about remembering that moment,” he said. “We’ve found that people come each year because there’s still people that need to talk and there’s still people who need to process. There are several people in Tucson who lost family members and friends that day.”

Each year, Schwartz said, the group meets on the anniversary of 9/11 to pick up several pounds of trash, paint handrails and better the quality of life in Tucson. This year, they met on 29th Street and Columbus Boulevard where they worked to restore a mural that the group created in a past project. The mural was unveiled May 2012 and is one of the many projects the Tucson Arts Brigade has done in an effort to clean up the community and give youth something to be proud of. The group sees a variety of volunteers — young children, UA students and adults — who all work to improve the neighborhood and remove tagging and graffiti from the mural.

“Every year we come in and remember what happened on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Tucson Arts Brigade’s Community Liaison Rose Taulton.

“Since then, we’ve been coming out cleaning … We try to keep the community nice.”

The organization, according to its website, is a nonprofit group that uses art as a solution to issues such as crime, bullying, drug use and health in order to unite the community and draw attention to the arts. They work with various schools, organizations and clubs that are acting to keep youth of out trouble and direct their interests and talents toward a positive route. The group has a history of working with known graffiti taggers that are now mural artists attending school and getting jobs, Taulton said.

“Our projects are aimed at areas that really need it,” said Mike Birrer, a volunteer for the organization. “This is an important intersection. It’s on the rough edges of the neighborhood; it needs this kind of thing.”

This event, like many others the group hosts, aimed to give the community time to reflect on the events of 9/11 as a group while bettering the state of the neighborhood.

“I believe in peace, humanity and the arts,” Schwartz said. “Ultimately, it was a destructive, selfish act done by a few people to a lot of people, and the way you respond to violence is to come together as a community and do something positive.”


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