Arts + Culture

NYC teens on probation get graffiti art show

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Fourteen teenagers on probation for graffiti offenses got to show off what they could do with their painting skills — legally.

The teens displayed their artwork Tuesday in an appropriate setting too — a Brooklyn courtroom. They were part of a program called Paint Straight that is designed to give graffiti artists an outlet for their creativity that does not involve defacing private property. Paint Straight is part of the New York City Department of Probation’s Brooklyn Family Services Unit.

The program show participants “how to take their passion and turn it around and make it work it for them,” said Ralph “Tatu Xmen” Perez, who created it. A ex-graffiti artist from the 1970s and 1980s himself, he said he saw kids increasingly being arrested for graffiti offenses and worked out a program to help them.

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Pictured: Jesus Merced, 16, holds a sketchbook and stands in front of a canvas that he painted during an art show in a courtroom in Brooklyn Family Court January 25, 2011 that presented art made by young graffiti offenders on probation in New York. The young graffiti artists participated in the Paint Straight Program that tries to keep them from returning to the street. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)