“You know, I grew up in an affluent neighborhood,” the 34-year-old artist and media relations specialist says. “I still live in one. So I understand how scared people are out there, especially in the really nice parts of town.”
With funding from an Urban Embetterment grant Justis and six other artists will create a dozen cheerful murals with the same comforting message: “You Are Safe.”
“It’s not that there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Justis explains. “But statistically speaking people who live in nicer neighborhoods shoulder a disproportionate amount of fear, worry, and concern about things like crime, brutal mayhem, drug dealers they didn’t meet in college, and things like that. It's not right, and nobody's out there doing anything about it.”
With her large scale mural project the artist wants to remind people in nice homes, who’ve lost hope and become shut ins, glued to police scanners and American Family Radio, that they don’t have the 5-0 rolling down the street shining spotlights at all hours, and are far less likely to come to a bad, criminally violent end than pretty much anybody.
“Is anybody ever really safe?” Justis ponders. “Well, yes. Yes, they are. I mean, not 100% of course, because bad things happen. Scary things. Crazy things happen. But if you’re living anywhere near one of these murals the odds are so in your favor you should stop freaking out and live a little.”
Anna Lingus, president of the Association of Neighborhood Associations is outraged by Justis’ proposal. “None of this meets AOA standards,” she wrote in an e-mail to members. “I don’t know who these people think they are coming in here with their awful colors and silly patronizing messages, but nobody wants this tacky mess and it’s not going to happen.”
Justis isn't deterred by criticism. "It's a shame," she says. "We have all these perfectly wealthy people and they're too afraid to even dream."
Donna Justis wants to change the world, one colorful wall at a time.