Wanna Pay for a Giant Ad Disguised as a Mural in Downtown Phoenix?

Courtesy of EVKM
Rendering for a mural EVKM hopes to fund with public donations.
You can’t walk more than two steps without seeing an ad in downtown Phoenix.

Derrek Hofrichter, owner of EVKM Self-Defense & Fitness, wants to add one more. And he wants you to pay for it.

Recently, Hofrichter launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter, hoping to raise $20,000 in online donations for the ad.

Thing is, he's not calling it an ad. Hofrichter bills it as a mural.

He’s already asked Caitlin R. Clifford, an artist who’s taken his classes, to paint the 85-by-15-foot piece, according to a press release issued on Tuesday, March 7. The mural is going on the north side of the building at 705 North First Street, where Hofrichter says landlord Tal Bader has granted permission for the piece.

Before sunrise on Monday, March 20, Clifford posted a photo showing her early work on the mural on her Instagram account.

If EVKM raises the full $20,000, Clifford will paint the full-scale piece, according to the Kickstarter pitch. If they raise $10,000, it says, she'll paint a smaller mural that doesn't span the entire wall.

Neither scenario is looking likely at this point. As of midday Monday, March 20, the Kickstarter campaign had raised just less than $2,000. And it has a caveat: If the full amount isn’t raised by the Tuesday, March 21, deadline, the project won’t get funded.

EVKM told New Times late Monday by e-mail that it's exploring other options, including partnering with Pomo Pizzeria, a business located in the same building. So now, the painting is on hold for at least a week.

Hofrichter is calling the mural So One May Walk in Peace. It’s a motto prominently displayed inside both his EVKM studios, which means the mural is about more than promulgating peace. It’s also a way of promoting his business, and asking others to foot the bill.

Rewards going to donors at various levels betray Hofrichter’s elevation of advertising over art. Donate $10, and you’ll get an EVKM sticker. For $30, you can snag an EVKM T-shirt. For $500 donors, there’s a group lesson with Hofrichter. Give just $100, and you’ll have to settle for some Hofrichter Skype time.

First Studio mural during November 2015 updates painted by Hugo Medina and Shawn Bullen. - LYNN TRIMBLE
First Studio mural during November 2015 updates painted by Hugo Medina and Shawn Bullen.
Lynn Trimble
Frankly, it all sounds a little creepy.

The mural will also feature the image of a woman surrounded by bright, colorful flowers painted to resemble Oaxacan embroidery. It’s an homage to Mexican culture and strong women, according to the release. In the rendering, she's depicted wearing boxing gloves.

“Most of the pieces in the Roosevelt Row Arts District are painted by men and are paintings by men,” the release reads, in part. Although that’s certainly the case, women artists including Carrie Marrill and Lauren Lee have created some of the area’s most iconic works – and none of them put men front and center.

The mural's design sounds perfectly lovely, but there’s a catch.

Mural renderings also show the business logo – further evidence that this work of art will function as a giant ad. Those who donate at least $5,000, by the way, can also have their company name or logo added to the design. Women are strong, but Coca-Cola could prove stronger.

Lauren Lee's Don't Wake the Dreamer mural in Tempe. - LAUREN LEE/PHOTO BY LYNN TRIMBLE
Lauren Lee's Don't Wake the Dreamer mural in Tempe.
Lauren Lee/Photo by Lynn Trimble
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with using mural art for publicity, assuming it’s not an ugly addition to the already cluttered urban landscape.

That’s what happened at First Studio, where a mural painted for Small Business Saturday in November 2015 pretty much ruined the north-facing wall. That wall already had a smaller mural, painted as an homage to the classic Arizona TV series Wallace & Ladmo. But the newer mural, added right next to it, completely overpowered it in scale. Now that wall is an eyesore.

Local First Arizona routinely uses murals on a west-facing wall to advertise local events, such as pinewood derbies or chili cook-offs. Matt’s Big Breakfast put a sunny rooster motif on its south-facing wall, and the Newton went with words in various colors and typeface for its west-facing wall.

click to enlarge Matt's Big Breakfast has this mural-style ad on its Roosevelt Row location. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Matt's Big Breakfast has this mural-style ad on its Roosevelt Row location.
Lynn Trimble
The problem is asking the public to pay for it.

The sentiment behind the mural isn’t without merit. We’re all for peace and diversity. But let’s not kid ourselves about what’s really happening here. It's advertising, pure and simple. Even the mural's Mexico-inspired theme is disingenuous. Despite EVKM verbiage describing the mural as “a celebration of our diverse metropolis," it's being painted by a white artist.

I’m all for large-scale murals that enhance the urban landscape, like Lauren Lee’s Don’t Wake the Dreamer, depicting a woman lying peacefully on her side, surrounded by colorful birds and flowers. That mural, which spans a 153-by-16-foot wall next to a city park, was commissioned by the city of Tempe for $12,000. The city never put its hat out, expecting members of the general public to drop in their dollars, although tax dollars do help fund public art projects like Lee's mural.

If Hofrichter is serious about promoting peace through painting, he should put out a call for art, then make a mural free from advertising happen. And he should find another way to pay for it.