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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

34th Street Wall is local tradition

It's been called an eyesore, a concrete blog and a public diary.

It's hard to miss the graffiti-ridden 34th Street Wall, a 1,120-foot-long concrete barrier that has been a Gainesville landmark for almost 30 years. People have used the Wall, which stretches along Southwest 34th Street near Southwest Second Avenue, to celebrate national championship wins, offer birthday wishes and pop the question.

Lourdes Santamaria-Wheeler, digital production supervisor at UF's Digital Library Center, helps manage the library's online collection of photographs tracking the Wall's history. Wheeler said people have been painting on the Wall since the Department of Transportation put it up in 1979.

While space is limited and messages are fleeting, one panel paying tribute to the five victims of the 1990 Gainesville murders is a permanent fixture, thanks to students and residents who touch up the paint.

Mickie MacKenzie, executive director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful, said writing on the Wall is technically illegal, but because it's tradition, the law isn't really enforced.

MacKenzie appreciates the tradition of the Wall but said Keep Alachua County Beautiful does occasionally paint over obscenities.

Santamaria-Wheeler said she considers the Wall a form of public art. "There have been some gorgeous paintings on there, and you think there's no way someone could have done that with a spray can," she said. "And they have; I've seen it."

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