Communities disagree after Shepard Fairey's mural painted over - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Communities disagree after Shepard Fairey's mural painted over

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

COVINGTON, KY (FOX19)  - Two communities are outraged after an international artist completed one mural on the side of a building in Covington.

On Wednesday, Shepard Fairey completed an image of a child soldier carrying an automatic weapon. Dozens of parents said they're horrified the image was ever constructed. Others said they can't believe it's now been painted over.

We caught Fairey in the act on Thursday evening, giving a building near Walnut and 12th Streets new life. Just hours earlier, over the bridge on West Pike Street in Covington, one of his most famous images, a child soldier carrying a weapon, died a white death. The building's owner, Michael A. Claypool, had it painted over hours after Fairey had finished it.

Tabitha Schwartz is a mother of three young children. She said she was outraged after she saw it. Schwartz said it didn't belong across the street from the John G. Carlisle Elementary School.

"My initial reaction was the fact that why would somebody do this," Schwatz said. "Is this trying to tell our students and our children today that it's okay to walk around with a machine gun?"

Dozens of parents, neighbors and school leaders agreed and complained to Claypool. He told FOX19 what one of the parents told him.

"A child come home from school yesterday very upset and was afraid to come back to school because she was afraid she was going to be shot," Claypool said.

Claypool said he volunteered to have Fairey complete a mural on his wall, but he had no idea Fairey would put that particular image up.

Fairey spoke only with FOX19 on Thursday evening. He told us he wanted to spark dialogue, not war.

"I felt that it was very obvious about promoting peace and discouraging violence but not everybody agreed obviously," Fairey said.

This isn't the first time the artist has left his mark on the Tri-State. Back in February, Fairey painted seven murals throughout Cincinnati. He's probably best known for the red and blue painting of President Obama he did during his campaign. Fairey has an installation at the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) right now.

"In our experience, our young visitors are the most, have the most insightful comments," said CAC Director Raphaela Platow. "And they look at the work and they connect to the humanity in it."

Covington mother Janet Tobler agreed. She said she walked past the mural Wednesday night with her daughter.

"Even though she's seven," Tobler said. "We talk about things that go on in the world, and we actually had a small discussion about child solders last night after we saw the mural."

Fairey said he didn't initially know the building was across the street from a school.

"We were fully aware and approve of art," said Claypool. But I just think it was the wrong place to put such a mural."

"It's not hurtful as much as it is discouraging that there couldn't even be a discussion about it," Fairey said.

"Actually people are talking about it more now than they would have otherwise," said Bob Schwartz, a local supporter of Fairey's work. "So it probably turns out to be a positive for him."

Fairey said he wishes he could have known about the issue before the mural was painted over. He said he would have been willing to work with the building owner and perhaps make some changes.

Natalie Bowers, District Manager for the Covington Arts, issued the following statement:

"The decision to remove the Shepard Fairey mural located at 242 Pike Street was the sole decision of the owners of the building who hosted the mural, MAC Productions. The Shepard Fairey mural was not a City-led project and the City had absolutely no involvement in the removal of it.
 
"Shortly after the mural was put up, both praise and complaints reached the City and MAC Productions. Strongest reaction was directed toward the content of a boy soldier holding a gun and the location of the mural being directly across the street from the John G. Carlisle Elementary School.

"Support of the Arts is part of the Economic Development initiative of the City and in no way does the building owner's decision to remove this mural reflect the huge amount of support that the City gives to Art and our Creative Community. This was a decision made by a business owner and we, as a community, have to respect that. I can only thank MAC Productions for going out on a limb and trying to support the Arts by offering their wall to the project. And thank you to the CAC for hosting the artist and sharing his talent with the community. We will continue to support the Arts and are only sorry that this unfortunate circumstance has occurred. As the Arts District Manager, I hope our creative community understands that this reaction in no way reflects our City's or Community's support of the Arts. We will continue to strive for freedom of expression and support for the Arts. Perhaps this incident will spark some enlightening debate for future endeavors."
 
Covington still hosts a second Fairey Mural, located on Scott Street, between Fourth and Fifth Streets, on the Kerry Toyota wall."

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