Mayor Larry Delgado

Community Youth Mural Program


Santa Fe is internationally known as a vibrant, thriving arts center. In the past, the city's youth said they had no connection to the arts. Now they tell a different story. Through the Community Youth Mural Program (CYMP), young artists' works are not hidden, but rather displayed prominently on very visible community surfaces. As concluded in The Arts in the Nonschool Hours', youth programs which replace prevention and detention with creativity and invention and where plans are made -with the youth and not simply/or them are the most successful. In the CYMP, youth participate extensively in the entire process, from research to design to execution. The Community Youth Mural Program began in 1995 by employing and paying young artists as a positive way to address the growing graffiti issue. Since then, this hands-on arts education program has involved elementary school age children through young adults, minorities, disabled children, school dropouts, gang members, and teenagers whose lives are affected by AIDS.

Although most participants are under 18, the community recognizes the need to engage the talents of those between 18 and 23,. The youth learn responsibility to one another, to the project, and to the community. In return, the community gains many beautifully decorated surfaces, including walls, buses, refuse trucks and traffic signal boxes. As one youth artist said, "I was able to share what I know with the group and contribute ideas. I felt more a part of the community."

Engaging Youth Participants

CYMP participants are selected in several ways including interviews with youth artists, posters on walls to attract graffiti artists, newspaper articles, teen court referrals, and nonprofit youth clients. The program fosters increased responsibility. Lead artists often hire young assistants who have connections with the younger participants. Assistant artists have gone on to become lead artists. Another young muralist serves on the Mayor's Mural Task Force. The City also provides an opportunity for novice photographers by hiring them to document each mural.

Integration of Support Services

Most of the nonprofit organizations, which act as fiscal agents for the projects, are children and youth service providers. These include boys and girls clubs, family and youth shelters, youth counseling centers, group homes, etc. Some of the lead artists are also youth counselors. One lead artist, a foster parent, works with a group of Native Americans- many of whom are in behavioral treatment programs each summer. Another is a counselor with the local shelter for battered families and bring young artists together each year.

Positive Impact

Final reports prepared by the lead artist attest to the program's positive impact. The youth learn to work within an existing structure and process. They may come to the program as gang members and after receiving local and national recognition learn the value of themselves through the appreciation of their art.

Mayor & City Government Role

The Mayor and City Council allocate the annual budget and appoint the Mayor's Mural Task Force that oversees the administration of the program. A part-time youth mural coordinator, supervised by the director of the City's Arts Commission, conducts the day-to-day operations. At each mural dedication ceremony, the mayor expresses his thanks to each participant.

Community-Wide Support

Young artists, teenagers looking for something to do, professional artists, arts supporters, interested parents, adult volunteers, the municipal judge, probation officers and local business owners come together with the City to make the murals happen. The young artists set up and participate in neighborhood meetings in order to allow residents an opportunity to give feedback on the design. The community becomes a resource for the cultural history and unique aspects of the site.

Community support is demonstrated by matching funds (in-kind and cash) equivalent to at least 15% of each project budget, often 60% or more. The community-based Mayor's Mural Task Force graciously volunteers to oversee policy decisions. Businesses ask that traffic control boxes near their locations be spray-painted.


Average yearly funding includes $94,500 of local tax revenues and $56,225 of community


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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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