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Ventura County News Roundup

OXNARD : Teen-Agers Offered Wall to Display Their Artistic Talents


The group of Oxnard teen-agers may have been dressed like graffiti taggers in baggy jeans, oversized T-shirts and old-style Puma tennis shoes, but they shrug off that label.

"We're bombers," said Felipe (Junior) Roa, 17, a can of neon green paint hissing in his hand. Adding touches to his mural on the outer wall of the Inlakech Cultural Center in downtown Oxnard on Thursday, Junior added, "I've never done tagging before. I've never liked it.

"Being a bomber is different," Junior said, explaining that while taggers merely leave their monikers, bombers create works of art.

Pointing to the wall he had decorated with a cartoon character carrying a bomb, Junior said, "I put it all out so people could look at it."

Jaime Estrada, co-director of the cultural center, said he offered the storefront center's 120-foot north wall as a cinder-block canvas to keep the young artists away from the riskier practice of defacing property.

"I'm hoping this will cut down on graffiti," Estrada said, standing outside the storefront cultural center at 644 South C St.

"We've invited them to be here," Estrada said. "They don't have to sneak around at night. And they don't have to worry about being busted."

The mural being painted by Junior and his friends will be replaced by a new group of youths in a few weeks, Estrada said.

The idea of diverting potential vandalism sat well with the owner of the Tacos D. F. restaurant just north of the cultural center. Owner Francisco Gonzalez said he did not mind the teen-agers gathering to admire or critique the work of their peers.

"It's very good, very good art," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he sees the mural as a good diversion for the city's youth, some of whom might otherwise be expressing themselves on the outer walls of businesses such as his or on the empty walls of canals.

"It's something positive for the young people," Gonzalez said. "I think it gives them respect for private property. It's different from graffiti."

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