Spreading the message with colours: Residents paint an old school wall at RA Puram

From cleaning streets to beautifying the wall of a corporation school, residents in RA Puram reiterate the importance of citizens' participation, especially children, in maintaining our public spaces

A stretch of the old, dilapidated compound wall of the Corporation School in Thiruveedhi Amman Koil Street of RA Puram grabbed the attention of a residents welfare association recently. To give a new lease of colour to the wall, Thiruveedhi Amman Koil Street Resident Welfare Association (TAKSRA), in association with an organisation called Karam Korpom-SAPS (Stop Abusing Public Spaces) started work two days before World Environment Day. SAPS focuses on preventing the abuse of public spaces by transforming them into beautiful art corners.

K L Balasubramanian and M K Ramkumar, active members of TAKSRA, led a group of about 30 volunteers to clean the street and plant the sidewalk with herbs and creepers. Children were also roped in to create a sense of ownership and responsibility towards civic infrastructure.  TASKRA wanted to get the wall painting completed before June 5th,  World Environment Day, to spread the message of keeping our environment clean and green.

SAPS volunteers along with the residents from TAKSRA  gathered on June 3rd to paint the 130-feet compound wall with beautiful artwork and meaningful slogans. The wall art design was conceived to blend in with the existing green bushes and creepers. Children and adults together, under the guidance of SAPS artists, enthusiastically lent their hands to make the wall colourful. “I felt like an artist when I painted the walls. It was a learning experience,” said S Nithyasri, a school student. A total of Rs 20,000 was pooled in by the residents for the cause,  helped along by sponsors like Asian Paints.

Paving way for change

“The old wall was shabby and was used as a urinal by citizens. The area was also a hub for anti-social elements, who would drink and create nuisance at night,” said Ramkumar. Before taking up the beautification work, residents had also ensured clearing of unauthorised parking here by continuous monitoring and putting up ‘No Parking’ sign boards.

The wall is now perked up with colourful art and the portraits of inspiring personalities including Bharathiyar and Thiruvalluvar. Headmistress of the Corporation School, J Dhanamal has promoted the initiative by posting pictures in the in-house school groups.

Karam Korpom-SAPS volunteers have transformed many other public spaces into art corners in recent months. These include parts of Vinayagam Street, Ranga Road, Mundakakanniamman Koil Street, RA Puram 4th Street, Husainy School at Porur, Rathna Nagar Main Road, Ashiaana Compound Wall at Venus Colony, P School wall at Maambakkam, and Thousand Lights.

The organisation has a team of socially conscious art-loving volunteers spread across Chennai, who come together and put their creative minds and efforts to transform public spaces for the better. “In addition to our volunteers, we always involve children and residents of the respective areas, so that they are also a part of the wall art creation and hence take ownership for maintaining the space in long run. Also, we sensitise children about the need for keeping public spaces clean and beautiful,” says S Umamaheswari, co-founder of Karam Korpom-SAPS. For more details on Karam Korpom-SAPS, visit www.facebook.com/sapschennai.

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