Graffiti makes a positive statement on school walls

Press Staff Writer

        Tony Touch says he always wanted to be an art teacher – a cool one.
        Touch, a graffiti and tattoo artist, is living that dream – unconventionally – through Summit Academy Toledo.
        Touch transformed the school’s void, nondescript third floor into an artfully embellished senior lounge with bold splashes of graffiti. With its steady influx of students, the project space presented Touch with the perfect platform for presenting a lesson of sorts to young, budding artists, “You can make a living doing art,” Touch says. “If one student ends up doing that, I’ve done my job.”
        So how did a tattoo artist and a school principal come together to bring a project like this to fruition?
        Dawn Heck, principal of the school, spotted Touch’s graffiti wall art at Reset, an arcade/pizza shop in Rossford. “It was very impressive,” says Heck, who reached out to the shop owners for the artist’s name.
        A series of ironies ensued.
        At the time, Heck was reading “Relentless – Changing Lives By Disrupting The Educational Norm,” by Hamish Brewer, also known as the tattooed skateboarding principal.
        Touch, meanwhile, who accepted Heck’s invitation to visit her at the school to discuss the project, discovered yet another parallel – autism.
        “Right off the bat, it felt like it was a good direction to go,” Touch says. He adds that the project piqued his interest after he learned that Summit Academy specializes in serving students with special needs such as autism, a diagnosis shared by his 5-year-old son.
        Once word got out about the project, donations poured in – spray paint from Art Supply Depot, wall paint from the Sherwin-Williams Paint Store on Toledo’s Central Avenue, and financial support from Touch’s employer, Infinite Art Tattoo Studio.
        With the abundant support, Touch created two adjacent wall murals. Showered in green, white, black, yellow and teal with pops of purple, the walls sport the Summit Academy shield and word, “Seniors,” which spans from corner to corner.
        “The kids really like it. They were excited to see it,” says Heck, adding that the space, furnished with a loveseat, four chairs and an area rug, gives seniors a place to meet, sit and chat. “They’ve worked so hard. They deserve it.”
        Both Heck and Touch have their sights set on more of the same: a continuation of graffiti art on the school’s first-floor wall facing the building entryway and outside the second-floor library.
        Touch is looking for sponsors for the additional projects. If he raises enough funds, he hopes to return to the school to complete them before the end of the year, this time, with fellow tattoo/graffiti artist Kodi Klo.
        What follows is left to curiosity, creativity and surprise.
        “There’s nothing greater than having a blank wall and a can of spray paint,” Touch says. “With those two things, anything is possible.”


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