What Happened to the ILSP Mural?

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tagged ILSP mural

Why would someone graffiti (verb) over a beautiful (and, really, defenseless) public mural? Was this a specific attack on the mural itself? On the artists that created it? On the ideas it professed?

Was this the result of an artistic dispute? A family quarrel? A love triangle gone rectangular? The timing was also suspicious, coming just before the city renegotiated the lease for the ILSP location.

Are some murals targeted and others avoided? And why not just find an empty wall somewhere else?

To add insult to injury, there seems to have been little or no effort made to save the mural, and the parts that were tagged-over would never be seen again.

tagged muralI began to keep an eye on the mural, documenting the evolutionary tagging and trying to figure out why this mural was under attack when there were perfectly good walls everywhere. It certainly wasn’t a great location or any kind of landmark.

It didn’t surprise me to learn that there were no funds for maintenance and restoration, and there seemed to be some confusion about who had official control of the mural.

Unfortunately, granting sources such as state funds and foundations are not as likely to fund the restoration of an important community mural as they are to help create a new one. Most budgets do not include a maintenance fund.

It’s likely that a vandalized public mural will be attacked by another graffiti artist before anyone officially responds.

Eventually a couple of security cameras showed up on the corner of Clinton Park and Valencia; one looking down at the front of the building on Valencia and the other one looking down over the mural on Clinton Park.

I learned that the cameras were recording 24 hours a day, but the quality of the image did not provide enough resolution for identification. I also learned that the cameras were not under 24-hour monitoring, and the angle of view makes it difficult to identify a dedicated vandal, though it would be easy to see someone tagging in the daytime during weekdays.

Were the cameras a smoke screen to tempt away would be vandals? A simple mask and a hood would have sufficed to beat this security system.

Over a matter of weeks the tags were re-worked, and someone officially added an array of stenciled letters over the tags, randomly placed and not actually saying anything, which survived intact until the whole mural was white-coated on December 9, 2011. Sometime later I saw similar lettering over similar graffiti somewhere on Mission Street, I can only assume that the letters were an official attempt to save the mural, but I’ve been unable to get anyone to admit to doing it.

Clinton Park muralsEventually I began to wonder why the other neighboring murals on Clinton Park and Stevenson were not tagged at all, and there didn’t seem to be any reason or speculation from any official source.

In the time that I photographed the mural (between April and December) there was a great deal of graffiti around the area, but not on the other murals. At the time of this writing the murals and street art next to and directly across from the now lost ISLP mural have not been attacked. I find myself feeling grateful for this, since they’re quite beautiful and deserve to be seen.

A few other questions emerged.

Who benefits most from the ILSP mural being gone? How does it change the equation of the Clinton Park at Valencia Street Mural Gallery? Will there be another mural to replace the one that was lost? And why did they use white paint?

How many ex-taggers are now milking the graffiti-abatement cash cow?

You can still see shades of the sun and the rainbow through the white cover… a ghost image from the past that may, sadly, symbolize what some refer to as an effort to erase the city’s past… to gentrify until all of San Francisco looks like the suburbs.

Is there a coat of white paint being planned for the rest of the murals on Clinton Park at Valencia?

This emerging addition to the city’s rich collection of outdoor mural galleries should not be erased.

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