Biblical Graffiti Pushes Envelope on Brook Road 

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Gravity-defying tagger "Expert" is arguably Richmond's most recognized graffiti artist, but a group of Bible-spoutin' seminarians at Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education are injecting a bit of scholarship into the local street art scene.

Looking like something found during an excavation of a first-century Roman amphitheater, a student-created mural adorning a temporary construction fence around the old Spence Library boasts some of the highest of highbrow graffiti seen this side of the Paris subway system.

"I am the vine, you are the branches," reads one message, in Greek. Richmonders not familiar with the language may miss the message driving past the school on Brook Road. There's also a familiar passage from the New Testament's Gospel of John.

Or for those not familiar with Deuteronomy as it appears in the original Hebrew, most will not read, "These words ... upon your heart ... teach them."

The artwork is courtesy of students in the school's master of divinity program, which requires students to complete studies in both languages, said Glenn Birch, a spokesman at Union PCSE.

"The fence had been up for a long while now, and we hadn't had a [graffiti] problem," Birch says, noting the school's determination to change that. "We thought this would be a fun way for students to help celebrate what's going on at the former library."

So far, the school has received only one complaint.

"I think it was someone who perceived it as graffiti," Birch said, declining to speculate on the complainant's knowledge of classical languages. "Overall, I think people understand what it is and what we're doing — and think it's attractive."

When the fence comes down, it will be for the reopening of the old library, which is being converted into a state-of-the-art classroom and worship space. It will be rechristened the Allen and Jeannette Early Center for Christian Education and Worship.

No word on what happens to the graffiti art when the wall comes down. S

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