A slender, slanted man plays the violin for other floating figures in an expansive wall mural at the corner of 24th and Guadalupe streets. For the past two decades, this vibrant scene has greeted pedestrians approaching campus, but now, only half of the original mural remains intact.
Sometime last month, an unknown group of people covered the bottom half of the mural with brown paint, according to E.J. Muñoz, an employee at a bank across the street from the mural. Muñoz watched as a team applied the fresh coat.
“It was really sad to see happen,” Muñoz said.
Over the past year, obscene graffiti had been painted over the mural. In the process of covering up the graffiti, however, “they re-graffiti-d the piece,” he said.
The work, titled Le Bonheur de Vivre (the Joy of Life), was painted by a former ACC art professor, Doug Jacques, who died in 2013, and his students in 1998.
For years, the mural was left untouched, even as businesses occupying the building changed.
Rory Skagen, an Austin mural artist who was one of the two artists who painted the well known ‘Greetings from Austin’ mural on South 1st Street, said “dozens and dozens” of murals painted in the 1990s have since been painted over, usually as a result of a new owner.
“Often times, a new landlord moves in and says ‘I don’t care, I don’t live in town,’” Skagen said. “If the art doesn’t fit with their store’s vibe, it is changed.
The space was recently sold to Cavanaugh Austin Properties and will soon be home to a retail shoe chain, according to Brian McMurrey, the realtor who sold the property. McMurrey said the new ownership is not responsible for the repaint.
“Neither the tenant, the owner nor the management company painted over the mural,” McMurrey said in a phone interview.
Mary Cavanaugh, a general partner of Cavanaugh Austin properties, also said she did not know who painted over the mural, and would like to know who did.
“We have no idea who did this, but it definitely was not us,” Cavanaugh said in a phone interview.
Derrick McKnight, director of the Austin Youth Development program, a department for the City of Austin that covers graffiti around the city, said that his team was not responsible for painting over the mural on 24th and Guadalupe, either.
“[Members of the AYD] know the difference between a mural and just some tagging that has happened,” McKnight said. “Even if there is graffiti over an existing mural, we will definitely leave it alone.”
In 2014, a photo of Jacques’ mural was entered into the Library of Congress as a part of photographer Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project. The collection of photographs attempted to document changes in the American landscape brought on by the 21st Century.
For Skagen, recent changes to murals such as the one on 24th and Guadalupe extend beyond issues between any one artist or property owner.
“These murals represent vanishing history,” he said.