Visual Arts

Downtown Phoenix Murals and Property Defaced During Paint PHX Event

We saw some beautiful murals go up during Paint PHX 2015, a four-day mural painting event organized by Thomas "Breeze" Marcus and other local artists, which officially kicked off last Thursday, March 5 and continued through Sunday, March 8. Most of the activity was centered in Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, and Calle 16 in metro Phoenix.

Local businesses along Fifth Street worked with Paint PHX organizers to present a free Fifth Street Block Party on Saturday, during which dozens of aerosol artists transformed the look of a Fifth Street alleyway. Some were local artists, but many came from other states. In some cases they got permission to paint; in others they simply seized walls and started spraying.

See also: Paint Phoenix Mural Event Returns to Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, and Calle 16

Something far worse took place in and around the Roosevelt A.R.T.S. Market, where works by several local artists were vandalized with graffiti tags. Laura Spalding Best has done two murals on shipping container galleries at the site. One was tagged last June, and another this past weekend. It's since been painted over with primer, as has the side of another container where Jake Early had painted a community mural to celebrate ASU's Sustival event.

Two murals painted on the sides of shipping containers went undamaged: One painted for the Chili Pepper Festival, and another with an abstract black and white work by local artist Christopher Jagmin.

Spalding Best's work was covered with fat bubble-style letters painted in silver and black. The nearby Bill Johnson's Big Apple trailer was tagged as well -- almost entirely covered with a similar style graffiti. Greg Esser says it's unlikely they'll be able to save the vintage trailer's original paint.

Esser says that nearby work by J.B. Snyder was defaced as well, adding that Snyder and frequent mural collaborator Tato Caraveo have already repainted the piece. Spalding Best says she'll be back to paint another shipping container mural, this time on the side of Halt Gallery (which lost its logo artwork to taggers over the weekend) rather than a Hot Box Gallery.

Spalding Best is taking news of the tagging better than you might expect. "I look at it more as an opportunity," she says. She's mulling over ideas now for her next shipping container mural, which folks will be able to see on the West side of the Halt Gallery during this month's Third Friday.

See also: Paint PHX 2015 in Downtown Phoenix in Photos

Phoenix graffiti removal teams have been plenty busy in recent days. We learned Wednesday afternoon that they've received 60 reports this week of graffiti in and around Roosevelt Row. We spotted a pair of graffiti removal trucks working on a house at the end of the Fifth Street alley one day, and later working on a covered asphalt lot adjacent to Paz Cantina.

An entire wall east of Paz Cantina had been covered in bubble-style graffiti, but local artist Jesse Perry showed us a clear demarcation between their work and his own. He figures they taped off his sushi-theme mural before doing their tagging thing, and he's since painted over the ocean creatures sporting sushi knives to start work on a new mural complete with rabbit set in a desert scene.

Through a fence surrounding the dilapidated house next to Paz Cantina, we saw this phrase scrawled in black aerosol paint near the roof: "Paint PHX?" Graffiti sprayed all over the home will be painted over, the graffiti team told us, after they secure written permission from the owner.

Similar scrawl we spotted Sunday night above several adjoining galleries -- including Five15 Gallery, Lotus Contemporary Art, and others. Esser says that it was quickly painted over by community partners, including folks from Downtown Phoenix, Inc.

It's possible that question mark after Paint PHX will prove prophetic.

Esser considers this year's Paint PHX "far more destructive than creative." He describes those who tagged others' artwork and property, including the giant Roosevelt Row map featuring artwork by local artist Ashley Macias, as incredibly disrespectful. "The unintended consequences are so horrific," he says, "especially to local artists, that it would be hard to support another Paint PHX event."

See also: Carrie Marill's Mural Is Defaced on Roosevelt Row; the Fight to Preserve Public Art Continues & Tag, You're Art: Local Street Artists Are Tagging Over Murals and Calling It Art

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble