Julia Narum

Students pass by the 23rd Street mural Monday evening. The University has asked original artists Kerry Awn, Tom Bauman and Rick Turner for their help in restoring the masterpiece after it was destroyed by vandals in January.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

The artists of two murals that were vandalized in January will be restoring their original works over a period of 10 weeks but may not be paid for their time.

The University Co-op asked original artists Kerry Awn, Tom Bauman and Rick Turner to renovate the murals after the city removed the graffiti in the Renaissance Market area, which is located on Guadalupe and 23rd Street. A University Co-op security guard first noticed graffiti on the south wall of the Renaissance Market building Jan. 7 at approximately 6 a.m., according to Brian Jewell, University Co-op marketing director.

Awn, one of the three original artists, said he is concerned they will not meet their fundraising goal of $30,000. As of Sunday, the artists raised $13,570 through an online fundraising campaign that began Feb. 15 and will end April 16. 

“I don’t think we’re going to hit our total goal of what we’re trying to raise,” Awn said. “We’ve hit a wall.”

According to Bauman, the artists must provide funding for anti-graffiti coating on the murals, and whatever is left over will pay the artists for their labor.

Julia Narum, Travis County Health and Human Services program supervisor, said the city removes graffiti but has a limited role in restoring murals.

“Once [the city is] finished cleaning it, I don’t know that there [is] much else to do,” Narum said.

Narum said she thinks the public’s response has been integral to the Renaissance Market murals’ restoration.

“There’s been a big enough outcry about it,” Narum said.

According to Awn, paint company Winsor & Newton donated paint and supplies, and the Co-op donated $5,000 to the artists to work on the project but asked them to raise the rest of the money needed to complete the renovations. Awn said he thinks the artists will break even.

“The Co-op seems to think that we’ll just come in there and do it for free,” Awn said. “We can’t take two months of our lives and do that. We have to live and pay rent.”

According to Awn, most of the money raised will fund the artists’ labor and transportation costs. Awn said he and Bauman commute about 20 miles each way to work on the mural, and Turner, who lives in New York, must pay for his airfare and accommodations to be able to work on the mural.

Awn said the renovations on both murals are scheduled to be completed by June 1. Currently, the artists are working on the 12-year-old mural of Texas and hope to complete it by April 15, after which they will begin renovations on the 40-year-old mural of the Austin skyline.

Awn said, no matter how much money is raised, the artists will restore the murals and potentially make additions, even though they may not be paid for their time.

“We probably will put more stuff on there, because that’s who we are,” Awn said. “It’s a labor of love for us.”

A student walks by the 40-year-old Austin mural on 23rd street. and Guadalupe that was recently vandalized. The Austin City government, University Co-op, and the original artists are looking to crowdsource funding to complete the restoration process.

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

After public outcry over the defacement of two murals near 23rd Street and Guadalupe, the original artists, the University Co-op and Austin officials have removed the majority of the graffiti and are crowdsourcing funds to finish the restoration process.

Brian Jewell, University Co-op marketing vice president, said a co-op security guard first noticed graffiti on the 40-year-old mural, located on the south wall of the Renaissance Market area, on Jan. 7. Jewell said the guard did not see anyone deface the murals, and no security footage of the area was available, so the co-op could not file a report with Austin police. Jewell said the graffiti removal is nearly complete, and the co-op and original artists are raising funds through online donations to begin restoring the murals in mid-March. 

Jewell said the mural is an important part of Austin history.

“[The mural] is 40 years old, and it’s an iconic symbol of Austin,” Jewell said. “It’s almost a rite of passage to view it.”

Kerry Awn, one of the murals’ original artists, said he did not realize the mural was important to the public until he witnessed the extensive media coverage done on it.

“It took the whole public to let me know that people care about it,” Awn said. “In a weird way, it’s kind of a good thing.”

According to Awn, he and the two other original artists — Tommy B and Rick Turner — will complete the restoration over the course of 10 weeks from March 15 until June 1. Awn said the co-op will take additional measures, such as installing cameras and additional lighting in the area, in an attempt to prevent additional acts of vandalism toward the mural from occurring.

Julia Narum, Travis County Health and Human Services program supervisor, said cold, damp weather — which makes removal less effective — delayed the city’s process of removing the graffiti. According to Narum, the city has removed graffiti from more than 1.5 million square feet of public and private property. Narum said the city’s annual budget for graffiti removal is approximately $516,000, including supplies and labor costs.

Narum said she thinks the amount of graffiti has increased, forcing the city to dedicate additional funds to graffiti removal. 

“It’s, in part, a growing pain,” Narum said. “There are so many events, so many visitors.”

Narum said graffiti is more common in places where there is more pedestrian traffic, but she said business owners sometimes paint murals to try to deter graffiti.

“When [vandals] did the [graffiti] at the co-op. To me, that means they have gotten really bold,” Narum said. “The [graffiti on the] murals have proven there’s no respect anymore for the murals.”

Jewell said he thinks it’s important to preserve the murals for later generations to view.

“It should be preserved,” Jewell said. “Not just because we should always preserve something, but because its helped define Austin.”

Education sophomore Brent B. and Austin native Camille Reid hang out on top of Castle Hill graffiti walls on Baylor street Monday afternoon. The two consider the walls an attraction where families and tourists come to visit even though it was once known as a place where the homeless linger. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The stretch of Guadalupe Street that runs along the western edge of the UT campus serves as a condensed sampling of all things Austin. From the taco bars to kitschy vintage clothing stores, the Drag provides UT students and visitors with all the comforts of Austin just steps fromthe campus.

Perhaps the quintessential aspect of the Drag, however, is not the breakfast tacos or the overpriced pizza slices but the colorful art that adorns the walls of the businesses that line the sidewalk.

Guadalupe Street is home to one of Austin’s most iconic pieces of street art: Daniel Johnston’s “Jeremiah the Innocent,” most commonly referred to as the “Hi, How Are You?” frog, which marks the beginning of the Drag.

Johnston’s frog has boldly sat on the otherwise blank wall at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets since Sound Exchange records commissioned the piece in 1993, but there have been attempts to deface the frog over the past 18 years. In this case, graffiti is serving as the bully to its more sophisticated relative, street art.

Julia Narum, leader of the graffiti abatement initiative through the Austin Youth Development Program, said the UT campus and the neighborhoods surrounding it are a highly targeted arena for graffiti and tagging.

“There are some things that are iconic that we respect,” Narum said. “But other people have come along and done graffiti on top of it.”

Aside from the commissioned murals of Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan and, of course, Johnston’s frog, there are plenty of haphazardly sprayed tags that stand unabashedly on many campus and city surfaces.

“Per month, complaints of graffiti have been increasing a lot,” Narum said. “For October 2011, we had 163 [complaints]. For October 2012, we had 290 complaints and those all came through 3-1-1.”

Austin citizens are encouraged to report to 3-1-1 graffiti sightings, from tags on blank surfaces to tags over pieces of commissioned art. Narum’s graffiti abatement crews then remove the reported blemishes as well as any other tags in the area.

According to Meghan Turner, administrator of the Art in Public Places program, it is not hard to distinguish graffiti from commissioned street art.

“There is a distinction between painted mural pieces and graffiti,” Turner said. “Usually graffiti is things like tagging.”

Art in Public Places is a city ordinance-driven program that allows for site-specific artwork to be commissioned around the city. This includes a wide range of media, from statues to murals and the occasional gate.

“We don’t commission very many murals anymore,” Turner said. “Murals are one of the hardest things to maintain over a long period of time.”

Turner said this has to do with the durability of paint on outdoor, concrete walls and also the fact that graffiti makes common, unwanted guest appearances on many of the city’s elaborate murals.

Narum said sometimes the artists who created pieces of art come to touch up the murals when graffiti appears over them.

Art professor John Clarke has studied graffiti and its role in more formal art settings.

“Graffiti is something that is written or spray-painted on somebody else’s property,” Clarke said. “Street art should be art that is commissioned by the owners of the surface.”

Graffiti, no matter how elaborate, does not have a place in the realm of art, Clarke said.

“It’s vandalism even if it has artistic merit because the people who own the property don’t want it to be there,” Clarke said.

There are several instances in Austin, however, where simple graffiti has been transformed into iconic examples of street art simply by reputation.

The “I love you so much” tag on South Congress Avenue has been immortalized through many Facebook profile pictures and even appears on canvases and other things that some innovative local artists sell and profit from.

Although the “I love you so much” tag first appeared as graffiti, Austinites can expect the piece to stick around for a while.

The same goes for Johnston’s iconic amphibian.

Despite the continued efforts of the graffiti abatement program, it is hard to walk anywhere in Austin without coming across some form of graffiti. It has blended into the walls, the sidewalks and the very fibers of the city.

“[Graffiti] is some form of a personal signature,” Clarke said. “Some form of saying, ‘I’m here, this is who I am.’”

Printed on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 as: Urban art vs. graffiti: Austinites attempt to preserve street art while limiting graffiti displays near campus