Meet the Phoenix Students Behind the ASU Graffiti Gang Mural Project

Graffii Gang members with a mural on the north exterior wall of Carly's Bistro.
Graffii Gang members with a mural on the north exterior wall of Carly's Bistro. Courtesy of ASU Graffiti Gang
Five Arizona State University students are on a mission to document the Phoenix mural scene. Collectively, they go by the name ASU Graffiti Gang. Recently, they launched a website designed to help people find local murals, as well as public art.

But don’t expect to find a complete listing of murals or public art at this point.

The group is posting artworks as they find and photograph them, says Celia Prince, ASU Graffiti Gang co-founder and journalism student.

“We like the small build, rather than posting everything at once,” Prince says. “That way people can follow its development.”

At this point, they've documented about two dozen murals, which means they have plenty more to tackle. There are more than two dozen murals located just within the Roosevelt Row arts district. And murals are in a constant state of flux, as new ones get created and old ones are painted over.

"We want to keep it going," Prince says.

Their long-term plans include documenting murals by region, using a map of Phoenix that's posted on their website. The map shows 15 different areas. To the far north, past Deer Valley, it shows neighborhood called Rio Vista. To the far south, past South Phoenix, it shows Ahwatukee Foothills. So they've got a lot of ground to cover.

The ASU Graffiti Gang stems from a group project for a multimedia journalism class. Prince worked on it alongside Jordan Dafnis, Hannah Reim, Josh Shure, and Brittany Watson.

Together, they worked from February to April, scouting murals in person and on social media. “We’ve spent over 90 hours on the project, between the five of us,” Prince says. Despite the name, it's not officially affiliated with ASU.

The ASU Graffiti Gang website launched on Thursday, April 27.

“We decided to start with downtown Phoenix because there’s a large concentration of artwork there,” Prince says. So far, they’ve posted maps that pinpoint locations for murals in three parts of town: Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, and Calle 16.

Calle 16 is a section of 16th Street near Thomas Road where Barrio Cafe chet Silvana Salcido Esparza worked with local artists in 2010 to create street art in protest of SB 1070, a bill that targeted undocumented immigrants in Arizona. It's home to murals by dozens of artists, including one by Rose Johnson that's slated for restoration.

click to enlarge Celia Prince poses with a mural located at Carly's Bistro in downtown Phoenix. - COURTESY OF ASU GRAFFITI GANG
Celia Prince poses with a mural located at Carly's Bistro in downtown Phoenix.
Courtesy of ASU Graffiti Gang
But ASU Graffiti Gang is also branching out, sharing more than local murals.

On the website homepage, they share Instagram photos of street art or graffiti-inspired works encountered in galleries and other spaces.

“We’re constantly looking for photos of local murals and tips from other people on Instagram,” Prince says. “We go out and photograph at least once a week, but sometimes every other day.”

For Prince, the project is a way to show appreciation for the local arts scene.

“First Friday was one of the first things I went to when I got to Phoenix,” Prince says. “I wanted to give back to the artists.”

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble