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Cam Ruhl, who paints graffiti-inspired canvases, says Positive Street Art is building a community for a new generation of artists. (BARBARA TAORMINA)

The strength of urban art

NASHUA — Friends and fans packed the back room at the Arena Sports Bar Sunday night to celebrate the second anniversary of Positive Street Art, a local nonprofit group that promotes urban art and artists.

Launched two years ago by local artists Cecelia Ulibarri and Manny Ramirez, Positive Street Art has won praise for the group's downtown murals, classes at the Boys and Girls Club, and participation in community service projects and events. Positive Street Art also provides a network of support and opportunities for the city's young artists, designers and performers who are working to build careers and reputations.

"Art is life," said Ulibarri who was pleased with the big turnout and the city's show of support for the organization. "However you can incorporate art into everyday life is positive. That's what we do."Sunday's celebration spotlighted local clothing designers and independent boutiques with a fashion show featuring street styles and one-of-a-kind outfits and accessories. The Positive Street Art dance team also performed some moves that defied gravity and anatomy, and a dozen local artists ringed the room with makeshift booths where they displayed work for sale.

"I've been watching Positive Street Art since it was just an idea," said Oscar Villacis, an urban art advocate and designer whose rebuilt sports jackets were featured in the fashion show.

Villacis said Nashua's downtown art movement draws in young people from different places and cultures, and the mix helps fuel an ongoing creative churn.

"There are so many levels and ways to do art," said Villacis. Positive Street Art encourages Nashua's younger generation of artists and gives them a chance to work together, he said.For the fashion show, Villacis tapped the talent of Andrea Jette, a Nashua designer who specializes in jewelry and accessories, particularly shoes.

Jette, who was pulling a suitcase stuffed with one-of-a-kind pairs of shoes with neon colored spikes, studs and hand-cut and painted appliqués, created a pair of shoes to match one of Villacis' jackets.

Jette sells her designs mostly online and through word-of-mouth advertising. Events like the Positive Street Art fashion show offer another opportunity to market her designs.

Cam Ruhl, a former graffiti artist who has switched from spray paint and brick walls to acrylics and canvases, said he also appreciated the community and the opportunities that have opened up to local artists through Positive Street Art.

Ruhl, who is self-taught, said his paintings bridge the gap between abstract art and graffiti.

"A lot of us do disruptive art that breaks the cycle," said Ruhl.

Ryan Lavalley, who was working a raffle table to raise money for the organization, said one of Positive Street Art's basic goals is to channel creative energy in a constructive way.

"We take something like graffiti, that might have had a negative connotation, and flip that around to something positive," he said.

Lavalley said Positive Street Art is working hard to connect all of Nashua's artists and build an inclusive arts community."It's our mission," he said. "We want to encourage people who might otherwise not have had a voice to express themselves."



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