Following a series of graffiti taggings in recent months, businesses, street artists and Austin police are discussing ways to restore a 40-year-old mural that was defaced last week.
Graffiti was first noticed on the mural — located in the Renaissance Market area near Guadalupe and 23rd Street. — on Jan. 7. According to Brian Jewell, University Co-op marketing vice president, the mural on the south side of the building was painted in 1976 by a group headed by artist Kerry Awn.
“What is on the side of the building is art,” Jewell said. “It is not street art or graffiti. It was created by an artist.”
Jewell said that between midnight and 1 a.m. on Jan. 7, a University Co-op security guard who was near the Co-op parking lot, approximately one block away, noticed two people standing near the mural. When the guard started to walk towards them, Jewell said, the two people ran from the scene. At approximately 6 a.m. that morning, the head of security at the Co-op first noticed the graffiti on the south wall of the building.
According to Jewell, the security guard did not notice any distinguishing features of the two people, so the Co-op was unable to take further action with the Austin Police Department.
According to statistics provided by the APD, the number of calls concerning graffiti decreased from 120 calls to 98 calls in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The report also stated that 18 calls about graffiti have already been reported to the APD this year.
APD spokeswoman Jennifer Herber said this number reflects only calls made to APD, but the actual number of reports may be higher if calls were made to Austin Health and Human Services.
Nathan Nordstrom — who goes by the pseudonym Sloke — is a street artist who said he remembered looking at the 40-year-old mural when he was a child. He said he was really angry when he found out it was vandalized because the mural is a part of Austin history.
“[The vandals] just spit right in the city’s face,” Nordstrom said. “It’s selfish; as an artist that has been using spray cans for 24 years, what [they] did was horrible.”
Nordstrom said he estimates the restoration process will probably take a month or longer at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, because the process requires stripping down to the original wall and re-painting. Jewell said the Co-op has been in contact with the original artists and the City of Austin, but discussions about restoring the art are preliminary and ongoing.
“There are individuals who appreciate in any city that type of art. That’s what creates the thread and fiber of the city,” Jewell said.
According to Nordstrom, the difference between graffiti and street art is content. Nordstrom said graffiti is based on letters and style while street art is based on images.
“I wouldn’t even call [the perpetrators] graffiti artists or street artists,” Nordstrom said. “[Their] stuff is horrible.”
Nordstrom said he thinks the perpetrators have caused a series of copycat acts of vandalism.
“I hate to say it, but it’s almost like a trend,” Nordstrom said. “It’s the broken window theory — if one person gets away with it, another person will do it,” Nordstrom said.
Nordstrom said he thinks the act was probably an attempt to gain media attention and quick credibility in the street art scene.
“These kids are nobodies in the graffiti world and they want some cheap fame,” Nordstrom said. “The art scene is a small community here, [so] there are people who know who did it … I’m not a snitch, but I do believe in karma.”