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Aaron Chamberlin Says Plans for Downtown Restaurant Include Knocking Out Exterior Wall -- and Sentrock's Mural

Aaron Chamberlin Says Plans for Downtown Restaurant Include Knocking Out Exterior Wall -- and Sentrock's Mural
mural by Joseph "Sentrock" Perez, photo by Claire Lawton

Last November, Joseph "Sentrock" Perez gave the now-defunct Downtown Phoenix Public Market a pretty sweet paint job, that you better check out in the next few days -- according to Aaron Chamberlin, who will open a farm-focused cafe in the space in 2013, the mural will be replaced by windows.

"Trust me, we're huge fans of murals and public art in downtown Phoenix," says Chamberlin, who hired DOSE and Hector Ruiz to paint a mural on the inside of his uptown restaurant, St. Francis. "But the plans for the space include windows where the mural is now ... and I'm hoping to get the mural put back up at the end of the building."

But many members of the community voiced their concerns and dismay this afternoon after Sentrock posted a photo with a caption: "new owner has plans to go over my mural, sucks for me but also this citys [sic] art culture. If you know this guy, please tell him since he is destroying a mural, he should help see another one created. Lms if you agree!"

See also: - Joseph "Sentrock" Perez on the Downtown Phoenix Public Market - Downtown Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar to Close May 12; Wednesday/Saturday Market and Food Truck Friday Will Continue - Aaron Chamberlin Will Open Farm-Focused Cafe in Urban Grocery Space

"This would not be right," wrote Natalie Morris, who worked at the Public Market and now runs Good Food Allies, on Facebook in a reply to Sentrock's photo. "It would be the last visual piece in removing what Cindy created through her market- community. I completely understand branding and moving on and moving forward. It's a part of growth. But also a part of growth is remembering who we were -- what we were founded on and what we have become because of it ... Too often, particularly in downtown Phoenix for some reason, we delete history, as if it means nothing. If this is true, I'm reaching out to the powers that currently be to, for once, use this mural as a starting point to begin making the right choice for this market and this space."

Murals by definition are ephemeral, and by law, they're up to the discretion of the building owner. In Phoenix, murals have taken off in the last few years, and as a result of their popularity, their protection and preservation has been called into question.

In September 2011, owners of the Paisley Violin moved out of their location on Grand Avenue, snatched a spot just a few blocks up, and -- to the overwhelming disappointment of the street art community -- painted a bright purple over a mural by El Mac. This Februrary, the same community raised questions when a group of volunteers attempted to preserve a mural by the late Rose Johnson, and when Carrie Marill repainted her mural after it was defaced on Roosevelt Row. Ultimately, building leaseholders change, artists move, murals fade (and are sometimes restored), and arts communities must weigh the reality and value of public art.

Sentrock is a well-loved artist in the local scene. Before moving to Chicago a few months ago, he founded The Rise Project, which provided urban educational programming to local youth and opened a temporary pop-up storefront on Roosevelt in the summer of 2011.

Last October, he submitted a mural design to a public contest by the market. His design was chosen by a panel of Downtown community members in October 2011 and was put up against a handful of designs by other local artists for popular vote. His design won, and Sentrock says it took a few days to sketch, plan, and paint the mural. At the time the mural was painted, market employees said the mural would be up for "a while."

 

But in May 2012, the Public Market shut its doors. Dan Klocke, board president of Community Food Connections wrote, "like any business there are risks with opening your doors and sometimes it just does not work out." Chamberlin says he was at the right place at the right time and negotiated a deal with landlord Kurt Schneider.

"From the artist point of view, its [sic] very disheartening," Sentrock wrote to Jackalope Ranch this afternoon. "For me to donate my time in creating a public mural for my community and then having it destroyed, makes me feel like my work is very insignificant. I understand the new owner had a design concept, and I know that's business. Aaron Chamberlin is a staple to this city's culture, but I hope that he acknowledges that the arts are just as valuable to our city's cultural life as a restaurant."

Chamberlin says he's working with a design team and has big plans to clean up the building, which includes sandblasting the exterior, building awnings, and adding windows for his cafe-goers -- windows that will replace Sentrock's mural.

"We want to work with the community," says Chamberlin, who admits to not knowing Sentrock's mural was chosen by popular vote or involved in a community contest. "We're super excited to be working with the Public Market, and for our plans to take shape ... I've spent a considerable amount of time and money to bring local art into my projects and that's not going to end. That's stuf I love. But we're moving on with our plans ... we're in the middle of construction."

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