- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - Just as he’s covered the walls of the Elkhart Art League building in High Dive Park with bright artwork, Alex Van Galder has painted over his past to leave a colorful, fulfilling legacy.

Van Galder, 29, has been making graffiti art since he was about 16 without really appreciating the medium with which he would “tag” buildings with his moniker.

“I didn’t really have a passion for art whatsoever, I didn’t really relate to it. I wasn’t introduced to it, that wasn’t pushed on to me in high school,” he said. “I got a really big passion for art after I got into graffiti.”

So he would paint his nickname on to any surface he could find: roofs, walls, train cars and so on. Van Galder says he would study police patrol patterns and shift change times in order to more covertly practice his rebel art.

“I’ve been chased out of train yards by an L.A. police helicopter,” he said. “I’ve been arrested numerous times.”

It wasn’t until his daughter, Mylie, was born that he realized he needed to change his ways.

“You can’t risk anything. I would never deprive my daughter” of having her father, the 2005 Northridge High School graduate said.

Calling Mylie’s birth a “life-changing experience,” Van Galder stopped painting illegally for good, deciding instead that his artwork could be done legally and help him make money.

Last July, he started Van Galder Murals, where he sells original art and does commissioned mural artwork for businesses and other customers.

“What was once a deterrent in my life to succeeding is now letting me stay at home and raise my daughter,” he said.

He also teaches art classes at the Tolson Center, passing on his knowledge and also teaching children that a creative outlet can be used positively. He also passes on the message of taking ownership of one’s work.

Van Galder said he doesn’t condone painting illegally, but he understands that it happens. Nowadays, he chooses to use his painting for good.

“It’s all about how you use your talents,” he said.

One of the legal public displays that Van Galder utilizes is the Elkhart Art League building at High Dive Park, which was allowed to become a public display of graffiti art in July 2013.

Art League Vice President Ellen Ridenour said the legal graffiti walls have been a success and police reports show that over the first two years of the program illegal graffiti reports have dropped. Police data for 2015 has not been available yet, Ridenour said.

“We think it’s done more good than harm,” she said.

Ridenour added that the artwork on the building is policed by artists very well and that rarely is there a need to cover up inappropriate or vulgar artwork. She said that someone checks it daily to make sure it’s appropriate.

“I haven’t had to use spray paint in a long time, so what does that tell you?” she said.

Van Galder said he comes to the park about every other month to paint some fresh work on it. In a recent visit he painted his nickname, “Klober,” on two walls in different styles, as well as adding a tribute to a friend of a friend who died on another wall.

He said that he was joined by artists from the surrounding area who also contributed to the building, adding that the building is now a destination for graffiti artists throughout Michiana.

“What this does is it gives people - especially graffiti artists and people that can’t express their talent - a place,” he said. “People are coming here, not causing any trouble, painting on the legal walls.”

“Being able to paint down here has been an amazing experience, absolutely amazing experience,” he added.

Van Galder is planning to open an art supply store and studio in downtown Elkhart around August. He hopes the store can be a place for artists to gather and get ideas, as well as the supplies they need.

To contact Van Galder email him at [email protected] or check his website, vgmurals.com or visit his Facebook Page, Van Galder Murals Inc.


Source: The Elkhart Truth, https://bit.ly/1UbkcOo


Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com

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