BRONX — When Bronx property owner Bob Bieder was getting frustrated with the perpetual effort to clean up graffiti in the borough, he decided to try a different tack — using legal murals to help prevent the vandalism.
"It was a constant battle, endless," he said. "And this seemed like a better option. Not only that, but we were also able to support the arts at the same time."
Paintings from the group TAG Public Arts Project now adorn Bieder's buildings at 2255 Westchester Ave. and 1401 Ferris Place, which house a plumbing and heating supply business.
The murals recently started getting a much larger audience with the launch of street art tours in the borough that showcase TAG's work at Bieder's and other locations.
"A group that was here last time had some people from Norway. We’ve had people from France," Bieder said. "It’s been great for The Bronx."
The tours, a partnership between TAG and Bronx Historical Tours, pick people up in Midtown and take them to murals that TAG has done throughout The Bronx, including a stop to see the group's work at 2303 Westchester Ave., where property owner Vincent Valente has a heating supply store.
TAG worked on Valente's building about a month ago, and since then, he said he has received several compliments from the neighborhood about how great the property looks.
He has not had any issues with graffiti, either, something he greatly appreciates.
"The last thing I want to do is come in here at 5, 6 o'clock in the morning and get out a roller and paint in 30-degree weather, which I’ve done," he said.
There have been two tours of TAG's street art so far, according to James Rodriguez, an artist with TAG. They generally last for about three hours, and the group is planning one for Saturday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. for about 20 people. Tickets are $40 per person for a bus tour or $25 for a walking tour.
TAG's founder and president J. (SinXero) Beltran said he hopes that showcasing art in the borough will help visiting tourists realize that The Bronx is not as dirty or dangerous as they may have thought.
"The Bronx isn’t burning anymore," he said. "All these stereotypes — what’s going to happen to you when you come to The Bronx — we want to help get away from that and start showing people the beautiful things that we have to offer."
Alexandra Maruri, founder of Bronx Historical Tours, also saw the street art as a good way to combat the borough's negative stereotypes.
"Everybody just always says that they're scared to come to The Bronx, and that’s a big reaction that I always get," she said. "People are so afraid."
The group has done 40 murals in The Bronx within about the last two months by artists from countries including Spain, Mexico, Australia and Ecuador. Just this week, they identified another 25 walls in the borough to paint.
Eventually, the group hopes to expand to other locations, but The Bronx is still its center of attention, Rodriguez said.
"Right now, we want to focus on The Bronx, and then we'll expand," he said. "You know, The Bronx still needs a lot of love."