he exterior walls of a one-time Denver lumberyard have become a legal canvas for graffiti artists to spray-paint their creations with the owners' blessing.
At least four of the buildings that made up Kroonenberg Lumberyards on West Jewell Avenue between South Acoma and South Bannock streets are now "permission walls" where graffiti is encouraged.
"There has been a lot of gang-banger graffiti over there, so to prevent that, we have had some people come and do more artistic stuff," said Steven Cook, one of the property owners.
Attractive to property owners because they help prevent unwanted graffiti on other parts of a business, permission walls have become popular in cities across the country in recent years.
The walls are marked clearly as "permission walls" and are self-managed by graffiti creators, who appreciate the opportunity to see their work as art rather than vandalism. They function as a living, constantly rotating museum exhibit.
At the same time, business owners who create the walls hope they will encourage a managed clustering of graffiti, and prevent it from being applied on unwanted parts of the business.
Graffiti vandalism is a persistent and ugly problem in neighborhoods throughout Denver. The city spends about $1.4 million a year getting rid of graffiti, said Public Works Department spokeswoman Daelene Mix.
"It creates the illusion that the community doesn't care, doesn't take care of itself; it is much more than just scribbling on a wall," said City Councilman Paul Lopez, whose southwest Denver district has struggled with the problem.