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Seeing is believing on Near Westside

One of Syracuse's best-known, if not best-liked, features has long been the manufactured barriers created by the tangle of highway running overhead.

But the Near Westside has been struggling with its own unnatural dividing line -- train trestles near the corner of West and Fayette Streets -- and the impact it has had on development of the community.

"We knew we wanted to do something on those trestles," said Maarten Jacobs, director of the Near Westside Initiative. "They're really a barricade between the West side and downtown."

When organizers began to see the unsightly barricade instead as a massive canvas, the solution became clear: turn it into a giant, community-based public art project.

With the vision and technique of former graffiti artist Steve "ESPO" Powers, the joint project between the NWSI, Connective Corridor and CoLab has transformed the once rusting barrier between neighborhoods into a brightly colored, hand-painted "Love Letter to Syracuse."

What you love, and what you don't

The Syracuse paintings echo Powers' Philadelphia project, "A Love Letter for You," a series of murals painted on buildings visible along a commuter train route in the city. Here in Syracuse, Powers and his crew have turned trestles into treasures with the following phrases:

Spring comes, Summer waits, Fall leaves, winter longs.

I paid the light bill just to see your face, now that we are here nowhere else matters.

Nothing to do is everything with you.

The phrases were derived from neighborhood meetings and door-to-door canvassing Powers and his crew undertook in July.

"He didn't just ask people what they loved about Syracuse," Jacobs said. "He asked, 'What do you hate?' and 'What's different about Syracuse?'"

Shoham Arad, program and innovation collaborator with CoLab, said one thing that people said they loved about Syracuse was the seasons, which led to the words that are now painted across the north-facing side of the bridge crossing West Street.

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