Student Mural Destroyed By Des Moines After Miscommunication

A couple of lost emails have led to the creation and destruction of a $3,000 mural in Des Moines, Iowa, the Des Moines Register reports.

The mural, which stretches 200 feet and took 100 hours to paint, was created by students with guidance from artist As Phate. It was nearly completed before being painted out over the weekend by the City, which owns the wall it was on.

According to the Register‘s report, the mural’s destruction was due to a “miscommunication” between Des Moines Central Campus High School and the City.

Des Moines Public Works director Jonathan Gano told the Register that he had given preliminary approval to the project, but then never heard back from Central Campus.

However, Central Campus teachers said they sent project details to Public Works; they were evidently never received. Assuming no news from the City was good news, they got the mural underway.

Subsequently, in an almost too-perfect example of the absurdity of bureaucracy, a graffiti complaint prompted the City – having no formal record of any authorized artwork on this spot – to hire a crew to paint the 200-foot mural back to the wall’s original soulless beige.

So a couple of lost emails decided the difference between vandalism and art for Des Moines officials.

“You could paint the Mona Lisa on the side of a building, and unless someone intervenes, it’s going to get painted over,” Gano told the Register. “An approved public art would have a (formal) communication with it … We were still very conceptual at the point where the discussion left off.”

Of course, taxpayer funds go toward the destruction of street art and guerrilla art every day without acknowledgement from government bodies or attention from bloggers such as yours truly. In the worst way, the City gave these students a hard lesson in creating art in public spaces: what may seem like a free, open canvas for creation can often become a tight box stuffed with paperwork and warped by public opinion. The very people you painted a mural for might call in a graffiti complaint to get it removed.

On that note, I’ll turn it over to As Phate, who wrote on Facebook about his personal conflict as a street artist working within school and City administration:

THere were several years of me turning down workshop opportunities simply because in my mind, NONE of the elements of hip hop (I know graff has its own predating history separate from hiphop) is properly developed by “little BIlly’s mom signing him up for a class.” You either ride or died sacrificed to become proficient in writing, breaking, MCing, Djing, OR you sat on the sideline, as a fan… BUTTTTTT, I also realized that not contributing what I know to the knowledge base of the scene, while also criticizing the youth for not possessing that knowledge, was counter-intuitive as well…..So at some point, I HAD to, however reluctantly, delve into the bureaucracy, red tape, side of things, which is what I hate, and why I declined an article interview today….. I ain’t into that shit… But as you know, it has its place, when it comes to the machine continuing to turn, and at some point, to do so in the favor of those who normally are neglected by the machine……..

Featured Image: Justin Judd Rankin. Source: As Phate’s Facebook.