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Posted on Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Ann Arbor business owner combats unwanted graffiti with artwork

By Chelsea Hoedl

After researching ways to discourage unwanted graffiti, Ann Arbor business owner Rebecca Arends is trying a new technique to combat the issue: covering the concrete walls with artwork.

Owner of Excelsior Massage Therapy, located at 2350 Washtenaw Ave., Arends found the best solution was to create a stenciled design on the often-targeted retaining wall near her suite. After being granted permission by the owner of the building, she went right to work on the project during Memorial Day weekend.


Rebecca Arends, of Excelsior Massage Therapy, poses in front of the wall near her business at 2350 Washtenaw Ave. on Monday, June 3. After graffiti tagging, Arends received approval and took the initiative to paint over the wall and add star stencils.

Daniel Brenner I

"An ugly concrete wall almost invites some sort of art, but graffiti isn't the right kind," Arends said.

Having grown up in Ann Arbor and now owning a business in the area, Arends said she really is invested in the community.

"There are a lot of really cool artistic things around town, like the gold spray painted-fire hydrant and all of the murals around the city," Arends said.

Arends acknowledges murals can be expensive, but at the cost of $70 and four hours to transform the large space, she said it was a manageable way to add to the artistic Ann Arbor atmosphere.

"What I painted on the retaining wall isn't a mural," Arends said. "I would like to say I'm an artist because everyone is an artist, but this has broad appeal because anyone can do it. I just used a stencil."

Arends painted a base color over the patchy wall and stenciled gold stars onto it using spray paint.

"I had customers concerned if it was safe to park out there because it had a feeling of urban decay," Arends said. "Now it is cheerful and uplifting,"

Arends said she hopes the transformation will inspire other businesses to attempt similar projects on their own buildings."

"There are all these places that keep getting graffitied," Arends said. "Painting over and stenciling walls is a solution to urban blight that is cheap, quick, and won't bum you out if it gets ruined — it's a quick fix."

Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for She can be reached at



Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

totally disagree with most of the commenters here. Viewing graffiti as purely vandalism is narrow-minded. Graffiti also can be art. There are cities all over the world, sophisticated and modern cities that embrace graffiti as the purest kind of art, spontaneous and inventive. Positioning graffiti artists are merely criminals is laughable. I even know of a city in Indiana--Goshen--that has developed an "art alley" and invited graffiti artists to display their work. It has done a lot to bring those on the fringe into participating in society--and discouraged a lot of unwanted graffiti elsewhere. Something to think about. The graffiti under the rr bridge on Miller is one of the best displays of "public art" in Ann Arbor.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:06 a.m.

The great blank cement wall along Washtenaw Ave at the ugly new shopping center across from Whole Foods is going to make a delicious target for these talentless vandals!! ...another AA eye sore fresh out of the ground!! LOL

Sandra Samons

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 5:24 p.m.

For that or other such walls, why not give the space to an interested school for an annual art project?


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

Because student art is almost universally terrible. It belongs in their parents basement in a storage unit until the kid leaves the house and they throw it out. Great art is as rare as great artists, who are some of our greatest treasures.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

That's a happy ending to that story, isn't it?


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Nice shot of the wall! (?) dumb.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

""An ugly concrete wall almost invites some sort of art, but graffiti isn't the right kind," Arends said." Actually graffiti is the EXACT kind of art that should be on that wall.....TAGGING is not graffiti, it is vandalism.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

Graffiti is vandalism, too, unless done with permission.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

Definition of graffiti noun (singular graffito /-t?/) [treated as singular or plural] writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place:the walls were covered with graffiti [as modifier]:a graffiti artist I am confused at how tagging is not graffiti. Is there some type of semantics issue where people think that if THEY consider what they put on somebody else's property to be artistic that it is okay?


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

There just ain't no way to make "SAES" pretty.

Usual Suspect

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

I commend Ms. Arends, and I hope she meets with success. However, I'm pretty sure that the jerks who do this don't care. I've already seen tags on top of intentionally-painted artwork around here. As many of us have been saying, they're not involving themselves in art. They're simply involved in vandalism.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

After seeing the previous comments and their ideas of how to punish taggers I wonder what they have in mind for violent crimes?

The Picker

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:54 a.m.


Jon Wax

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

1. graffti and tagging are 2 different things. that should be in the story. 2. this is a good alternative... but i will always think that a steel toe to the teeth works better and is cheaper for all involved. Peace Wax

The Picker

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

Just another form of tagging! My solution to graffiti, first you catch the vandal, then you put them in stocks every Saturday at the Farmers Mkt for a year of public humiliation. Place pots of colored paints next to them for the public to express THEIR frustration with this behavior. Second offense, the parents join them!

Nicholas Urfe

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

And we shall call you The Mayor.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

"Second offense, the parents join them!" Nice touch


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

There you go!!

Nicholas Urfe

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

Could a wall like that be clear coated to aid in future graffiti removal? Or waxed, or oiled; so the paint does not adhere well.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 7:30 p.m.

I apply graffiti-resistant coatings as part of my maintenance work, they are not cheap but they work. You do not have to reapply every time, coating life depends on the extent of the damage, the paints used, and the cleanup method.

Rebecca Arends

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

Nicholas, there is new technology major cities are using for statues and the like that is a wax-type coating that does rinse off. It needs to be reapplied every time, however, from my understanding.

A A Resident

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

I don't understand how that discourages a vandal. It's more like they've been provided with a fresh, interesting canvas.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

That's the way to think out of the box, Rebecca! I hope it keeps your wall clean.

Rebecca Arends

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

Thanks so much! The beauty of this is that it's a very easy fix if they return: a quick base coat, then a 5 minute spray with the stencil I made out of cardboard and a can of gold spray paint from Ace. Frustration kept to a minimum : )

Jack Gladney

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : noon

That's a nice background color, and the little gold stars add a nice touch. If graffiti was a problem there before, it will be an even better backdrop for some vandal (pc term: tagger).

Robert Hughes

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

Only time will tell, Jack.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

This article needs a photo of her stenciled wall

Dirty Mouth

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

I will cover the stars with moons.

The Picker

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

Is that not a painted wall with gold stars behind her?