LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Local artists are speaking out after a series of murals are damaged yet again. They want the vandals to know the art – and the artists – aren’t going anywhere. This is not the first time artwork of the 7th Street Mural Project has been vandalized. Artists say they will continue to repair any damage, and the added paint can’t cover up the powerful message underneath.
Since 2015, colorful paintings themed “Peace and Justice” have decorated the 7th street underpass – an artist collective with a powerful message. But this weekend, vandals decided to damage three murals focused on the fight for racial equality, something artists say has happened before. “The larger our art has gotten, the more vandalism is happening.” Nicole Stewart added to the growing art project this past spring. Her work includes part of the “I can’t breathe!” portrait that was targeted by vandals. “They filled up balloons with paint,” explained Stewart, “and threw it at the wall.”
She says this isn’t the first time artwork has been damaged, and artists have gotten used to seeing the unwanted additions to their hard work. “It seems like it’s getting out of hand,” said Stewart, “but at the same time, this is something that’s going on all the time.” To Stewart, the pushback on the mural shows just how much it’s needed, and says it proves work still needs to be done in the fight for social justice. “If this art is so upsetting that it’s making people react this way to it,” she said, “that makes our art even more necessary.”
Artists that worked on the damaged murals say they’ll return to clean up the mess, and make sure the intended message shines through. “We’re always going to have more paint, we’re always going to have more support,” Stewart said. If you would like to learn more about the 7th Street Mural Project, you can check out their page and support the artists here.