Peralta resident uses talent for good

........................................................................................................................................................................................

He’s been a painter since he could pick up a paint brush, but Franklin Bivens’ preferred medium is spray paint.

Submitted photo: Former graffiti artist Franklin Bivens was looking for a way to give graffiti a positive twist when he and his friends created Gospel Graffiti. Above is one mural the group created in Albuquerque. The group uses murals to illustrate that not all graffiti is negative, while delivering the word of God.

The former graffiti artist is transferring his artistic talents to murals with Biblical messages.

The 37-year-old changed his life after getting “into some trouble” for graffiti three years ago. He gave his life to Christ and knew he had to change the way he thought and viewed graffiti.

It had been a part of his life that expressed his personality since he was 16 years old.

That’s when he and his friends developed a positive twist on graffiti art — Gospel Graffiti. This group illustrates that not all graffiti-style art is negative by delivering the word of God through mural artwork, he said.

“We’ll use graffiti as the medium to talk to kids, because they’re all into it, so you can bring them in through the graffiti, and then you can tell them your testimony and tell them how you’ve changed and what God is doing for you now,” Bivens said.

Although Bivens is limited in the type of painting he can do due to his probation, he’s orchestrated group members to create murals in Albuquerque revolving around God. The murals, spanning walls as high as three stories tall, feature Bible verses and depictions of Jesus.

“Getting arrested, it gives you credit, because you’ve been there and done that and this is what you’ve done to change it,” he said.

For the mural artist, painting is all about the final outcome when he can stand back and feast his eyes on the once barren wall now covered in his artwork. In other words, “for the love of painting.”

“After I get done, I like to step back and say, ‘Wow. I painted that,’” he said.

After running into trouble, the Peralta resident was sentenced to 120-hours of community service to cover up graffiti in Belen and Los Lunas, but instead the city of Belen utilized Biven’s painting talents in another way.

For six months, he spent his weekends sprucing up the beige, stucco pillars lining Becker Avenue. Streets names from Main Street to Second Street were first stenciled onto nine pillars before being painted on and given a shadow effect with a quarter-inch paintbrush.

Bivens is now enrolled in classes for an associate degree in applied mechanics with a focus in welding from the Central New Mexico Community College.

The full-time student achieved a 3.5 grade point average and has received scholarships.

As soon as his probation ends in June, Bivens plans on expanding Gospel Graffiti to become a youth minister.

“Sure, getting into trouble was bad, but what came out of it was great,” he said. “I turned my life around, and I started working for all of these positive outlets, and I don’t have to worry about cops or anything like that anymore.”


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.