A Group of Burlington Neighbors Is Painting Over Graffiti Themselves | True 802 | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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A Group of Burlington Neighbors Is Painting Over Graffiti Themselves

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Published May 29, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.


457 St. Paul Street, Burlington - COURTESY OF JILL BADOLATO
  • Courtesy Of Jill Badolato
  • 457 St. Paul Street, Burlington

People used to line the block in front of 457 St. Paul Street in Burlington to buy a treat at the corner gelato stand. But when the business moved out two years ago, the building started drawing a different crowd: taggers armed with spray paint.

Recently, a group of residents covered up the graffiti with a colorful display of their own. They're encouraging others to fight blight the same way.

"It's our beautiful city," said Jill Badolato, a South Winooski Avenue resident who organized the project. "We've gotta all step up if we want to protect it."

The building, at St. Paul Street's busy intersection with South Winooski Avenue and Howard Street, is recognizable to anyone who's traveled between downtown and the city's South End. It's also right across the street from Badolato's home.

She started the project after she returned home one December weekend to find the building scrawled with graffiti. She asked her neighbors for help painting over it — and the building owner, Joe Handy, for permission. Everyone was on board.

Badolato has led beautification efforts before, a process she calls "instigating art." A former Dealer.com employee, she worked with Burlington artist Mary Lacy in 2015 to create the origami-inspired design that now covers the silos at the company's Pine Street offices. She later helped Outdoor Gear Exchange hire Morrisville artist Jess Graham to spruce up its downtown building with a mural depicting Vermont's four seasons.

For the St. Paul Street project, Badolato chose colors from her fellow painters' homes: her purple porch, a neighbor's hot pink shutters, another's dark green siding. Each person filled in a section of the building's board-and-batten exterior, creating a colorful medley of boxes they've dubbed "Neighborhood Squares." Earlier this month, a neighbor put the final touches on the project by covering the building's once-graffitied metal sign with a blue-and-yellow geometric design.

"It's nothing major, but it's gonna bring a little smile to your face, a little pop of color," Badolato said.

If the taggers return, the brigade will reassemble, paint cans in hand. So far, they haven't needed to — the building has remained graffiti-free.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Neighborhood Squares"

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