Our very first project [for Kids on the Hill] happened in 1997 when I caught a couple of teenagers spray painting in the neighborhood. I came out of my house one day and there were these three girls, and they all had something stuffed underneath their coats. I said 'What is that?' And they took out the spray paint cans -- I was very surprised they showed me what they had under their coats and I said 'Give me that spray paint! Get in my house right now!' And so they came in and I decided that we were going to have an art lesson and if they were going to be doing graffiti, we were at least going to make it artful!
So I gave them a drawing lesson and they had a lot of fun, and they said 'Why don't we do this every week?' And I said 'Great plan!' So we invited up more kids and we had an art lesson every week for a couple of months, and in the meantime, I raised some money to buy some paint and got permission from a landlord who had three abandoned buildings that are actually right next to my house, and they all had boards on the windows and doors, and we just decided that we were going to paint self portraits on these three boarded buildings. And we got his permission and the Neighborhood Association's and we got some money from the Mayors' Advisory Committee on Art and Culture.
And we bought the paint and put up the scaffolding and we painted these self-portraits, so that each young person had their own picture. And that was the first time we got a little bit of press and it was very exciting, and people were very excited, and I was very excited.