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Radio story: Youth artworks brings spirit to South Berkeley

This radio story aired on Crosscurrents for KALW public radio on May 19, 2010.

Economic hardships are affecting communities throughout the Bay Area. Communities like the working class neighborhoods of South Berkeley. Many residents there have often struggled to make a living, but with the recession, 20 percent of the population is now living below poverty level. Unemployment is up and many of South Berkeley’s stores have been shuttered.

But, before you get too down, this isn’t a sad story. Something has recently changed in this neighborhood — big colorful paintings are popping up in formerly vacant storefront windows. Images of women with flowered dresses, molten volcanoes and even abstract expressionist paintings, a la Jackson Pollock. They were all made by low-income youth paid to paint for a program that’s working to get young people off the street while also trying to beautify the neighborhood.