Vogue Photographic owner Gabriele Mayrhofer stands next to the colourful mural that was recently painted on the back of the business to deter graffiti.

Art on their own terms in Nelson alleyways

Nelson's Vogue Photographic is fighting spray paint with spray paint.

Vogue Photographic is fighting spray paint with spray paint.

Tired of seeing the back of their Baker Street shop tagged by graffiti vandals, Vogue co-owners Gabriele Mayrhofer and her husband Michael decided to have their alley entrance painted by a pro.

They hired Nelson artist Bryn Stevenson, who worked on the Colours of Nelson project under the Nelson bridge and Boomtown Sports mural on Hall Street. He turned the wall into a colourful work of art bearing the company name in five-foot tall bubble letters.

“The neighbouring business owners have been telling me that I might have started a trend with this,” Mayrhofer said.

“Everyone is tired of the little graffiti doodles showing up on everything, and this is a way to reclaim our property.”

She credits her 89-year-old father-in-law Helmuth, who owns the building, for coming up with the idea of using graffiti to prevent graffiti.

They have been so pleased with the outcome that Mayrhofer plans to ask for city permission to have Stevenson also paint the east-facing wall, which would give the artist a canvas the full height of the building.

“We’re celebrating our 60th year in business next year, and we’d like to roll out the new mural as part of the anniversary celebration,” Mayrhofer said. “If we do something cool with the wall, it could end becoming an extension of the photo studio — we could use it as a backdrop for our photos.”

There’s a couple other businesses that have alleyway artwork: The Kootenay Co-op Grocery Store has a graffiti-style mural on its backside and the Capitol Theatre uses its rear wall to paint the name of plays put on by the Youth Theatre Program.

But for the most part, downtown alleys remain a patchwork of grey paint tones used to cover tags and other unwanted graffiti.

“I’d much rather have our walls painted with something of our choosing,” Mayrhofer said. “It would be great if more businesses followed suit. Nelson is such an artistic community, why not use that and get rid of some of the problem graffiti at the same time.”

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