All “Eyez” on Des Moines as Graffiti Artists Mentor Next Generation

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The rainy weather couldn't stop one graffiti artist from passing his knowledge on to the next generation at the Des Moines Social Club.

He goes by "Eyez," and is a nationally known graffiti artist who's as likely to be holding a TED Talk as he is tagging a wall.

“I started doing more traditional graffiti back in the 90s and then I got into stencil graffiti, which is similar to Banksy, around 2001. I love it. I sit there and cut out my stencils and spray ‘em out. It's great,” said Eyez.

The Des Moines Social Club brought the St. Louis native to Iowa to be part of their annual graffiti expo, and while rain put a damper on Saturday’s event, it didn't put a damper on Eyez’s message of beautification.

“My motivation is to beautify walls. I don't do vandalism. My motivation is to come to events like this,” he said.

Saturday's event was special because it paired graffiti veterans like Eyez with the younger generation; in some cases, way younger.

“It's like your imagination is going to come to life, but in, like, 2D form” said fifth grader Jaiden Martel.

Martel is wise beyond his years, not oblivious to graffiti's negative reputation.

“Some people in the world do bad things and they do this, but in a negative form, not a positive form,” he said.

The apple not falling far from the mentor's tree.

“I'm going to do a piece called ‘eye believe in you.' We have an opportunity to teach kids that yeah, just because you spray can does not mean we're doing vandalism. It's very important to just show people in life that, you know, it's what you make out of it, it's even the message you write. You know, I can get up here with a can and write something totally negative, but today I'm putting something positive, which is my motivation,” said Eyez.

That, and to usher in the artists who will continue his generation's legacy.

“I was inspired by this artist by the name of Keith Haring. He made me the artist I am today, so if I can share my knowledge with somebody else, it’s almost like bringing in the next generation of artists,” said Eyez.

The expo will continue on Sunday starting at noon with more local talent.

You can see some of Eyez’s artwork at @Eyez on Instagram.