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Photos by Emily N. Tanaka.

With a $31,000 “Good Neighbor Citizenship Company” grant from State Farm, Southern California-based organization Operation Clean Slate added a mural at the YMCA in Long Beach Wednesday depicting a visible and important message.

“The Fairfield Family YMCA is located at an intersection with lots of traffic, that’s why painting a mural about vehicle and pedestrian safety here is key, as it could really prevent accidents and save lives,” Long Beach State Farm agent Jose Olguin, who participated in the painting, said in a statement.

For over 20 years Operation Clean Slate has enabled thousands of students to clean, beautify and craft powerful messages by painting murals at their schools and in their communities. The mural at the YMCA was painted with both pedestrian and underwater themes to the point “that just like under the sea, species and currents seem to coexist in harmony, we can also do the same above ground,” stated the release.

Young artists from the community, members of the YMCA and State Farm representatives were expected to participate in the painting of the mural. Operation Clean Slate’s founder, Michael Howard and former Juvenile Hall teacher in Orange County, believes murals can be an antidote to graffiti and tagging. More than 1,000 murals have been completed through the organization.

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“As a father and a teacher, I will never tire of supporting projects that emphasize the safety of the young people growing up in Long Beach,” Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell said in a statement. “This project highlights the creativity that is so unique to our city, while supporting the well-being of families and young pedestrians – it’s a win-win!”

Every two hours a pedestrian in the US is struck and killed, while pedestrian fatalities have increased 15 percent since 2009, according to information from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and State Farm. Distracted driving causes 11 teen deaths every day, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Hit-and-run crashes accounted for 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities in 2013 (GHSA). Car crashes are the No. 1 teen killer in the United States.

For more information about Operation Clean Slate, visit the website here.  

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].