City and students team up for Paint the Tunnel Day

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 5, 2021

 Students from Utica Community Schools beautify the Davis Street Tunnel Sept. 18 with their artwork.

Students from Utica Community Schools beautify the Davis Street Tunnel Sept. 18 with their artwork.

Photo by Lori Cooke


UTICA — The city of Utica held a Paint the Tunnel Day Sept. 18, where Utica Community Schools students and teachers joined together to whitewash and paint the Davis Street Tunnel in downtown Utica. The tunnel had been covered with graffiti, and the city wanted to cover it with local students’ artwork.

Earlier this year, a Resident Graffiti Committee started meeting to deal with the blight and obscenities that were part of the graffiti in the Davis Street and River Bends tunnels. The city had tried to encourage people who wanted to paint in the tunnels to come and ask permission via City Hall and give an idea of what they would want to paint.

Last year, a graffiti artist painted some beautiful, vibrant artwork in the tunnel, but it was then covered up with obscenities. The committee decided that the best way to try to curtail the unacceptable graffiti was to empower local young people by letting them take ownership of the work and encouraging others to not deface it.

Twelve students and their teachers were able to bring beauty to the tunnel Sept. 18. Plans are to have even more students and events next year with an art show.

Sheri Townsend, who is on the Utica City Council and the organizer of the event, said Paint the Tunnel Day was a total success.

“The creative energy and positivity flowed through the entire day. We couldn’t be more happy. We couldn’t have gotten the word out to students without the help of teachers Jennifer Ramirez, Eisenhower High School and Gail Borowski from Davis Jr. High,” she said in an email interview.

She said she would like to thank the Utica Resident Graffiti Committee members for all of their ideas and Home Depot and Puff for supplying paint for this event.

“Puff is also helping to sponsor local street artist Oleg Kolbasov, as he will create a street mural on the south end of the tunnel,” she said.

She said they want Utica to be a city of art and color, not of socially unacceptable writings and profanity.

“These are ongoing projects in the city so be sure to stay tuned,” she said.

Gus Calandrino, the mayor of Utica, said it was great to see the enthusiasm and creativity of the Utica Community Schools students and teachers at the tunnel painting event.

“I appreciate all the people who took the time and effort to help us with this project. The tunnel is used by so many people, both for pedestrian travel and for recreational purposes. We’re happy to be able to provide them with some beautiful art to view while traveling the tunnel,” he said.