Interview with Mr. Clean SF Mohammed Nuru

Mohammed Nuru

Mr. Clean SF

Gone are the days of Mr. Clean only being a balding man plastered on cleaning bottles used to scrub kitchen floors. The new millennium embraces the latest tidy man Deputy Director of Operations for the Department of Public Works Mohammed Nuru, also known as “Mr. Clean San Francisco.” His aim: to put a hurting on the dirt and grime in the streets of San Francisco.

What exactly does this mean for Nuru? Not only does he wish to keep city buildings and streets in tip top shape, plant trees, and scrub the urine-smelling streets down, but he wants to keep graffiti at a minimum.

Wait, did I just say graffiti? Indeed I did, but he has reason and even logical solutions to keep both property owners and graffiti writers with a smile on their faces.

Nuru, who also works as the chair of the graffiti advisory board, says the main issue with graffiti in San Francisco are tags. Not only does he see this problem on other people’s property, but he notices this occurring on murals that graffiti writers put their blood, sweat, and tears into. What does this cost the city? According to Nuru, cleaning graffiti costs San Francisco 20million big ones.

Yeah, it is a pretty penny to keep the city clean from graffiti, but Nuru does not take the easy way out and simply slap cuffs on graffiti-writing culprits. He cooperates with several creative outlets that promote creativity.

The San Francisco Art Commission, for example, matches graffiti writers with property owners. The artist and the property owner work out a deal that enables the artist to throw up a mural on the proprietor’s place of business. Nuru says there is a huge response from the art community. “The artists become big partners with city agencies,” says Nuru, who also adds that property owners have the ability to choose between specific graffiti writers in a portfolio if they would like to work with them.

Even with a creative outlet like the San Francisco Art Commission, the truth is, there are still writers that choose to break the rules. To curb that Nuru says SF has a database that keeps track of most tags that specific writers use. And if that writer happens to get caught he or she would be prosecuted for all tags he or she had done. Other than a database, Nuru says graffiti writers caught defacing property sometimes must spend time and do graffiti scrub downs themselves.

In the future, Nuru hopes to create a space for writers to periodically put their work up. He says he wants to hear what graffiti artists want and that this idea is in the works. He really wants the writers to determine what the rules should be for he is an artist himself and he appreciates art. “We are not trying to stop this type of art,” he says, “but we want to stop this defacing and vandalizing of people’s property.”

Maybe Nuru’s dream will come true, maybe it won’t. It’s hard to say. Just because skate parks exist does that mean suburban skaters will suddenly stop hopping fences and skating their high school? I think not. So will providing a space for graffiti writers stop them from defacing property owners storefronts? Maybe it will, but odds are there will be someone wanting to walk on the wild side and feel the rush of watching wet paint lightly cover the surface of a blank canvas.


~ by Mr. Fem-Bot on April 13, 2010.

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