Park artwork covered after graffiti mars it


POSTED: Monday, November 10, 2008

Question: Recently, while driving along the H-1 freeway, I noticed that most of the “;urban”; artwork officially installed in 2005 at Makiki Skate Park by artist Shepard Fairey (artist-in-residence at the time at The Contemporary Museum and the artist behind the famous “;OBEY”; apparel brand) has been painted over with gray. Shepard Fairey is one of today's best known and most influential street artists, and is famous world wide. What happened? Did the city mistake the work for graffiti in 2008? (Two complaints combined.)

Answer: Ironically, it was because of “;tagging”; of the street artist's red-white-and-black artwork that the city Department of Parks and Recreation last month painted over the entire wall that served as a canvas.

But parks Director Lester Chang and Georgianna Lagoria, executive director of The Contemporary Museum, both said the artwork always was meant to be a temporary installation.

“;Certainly, for a long period of time, it deterred tagging,”; Lagoria said. “;We're happy it lasted as long as it did.”;

Fairey, however, had higher hopes.

In an interview with Graham Wellington in Honolulu Weekly in 2005 ( cover/2005/11/urban-scrawl/), he said: “;My experience has been when something is done that has some time and energy behind it that's creative, people tend to respect it and don't tag it. It's a positive example.”;

Chang said the museum approached his department in 2005 about having Fairey, also a skateboarder, put up his artwork at the skateboard facility at Makiki District Park.

In November of that year, Fairey was in Honolulu as part of The Contemporary Museum's Catalyst Artist in Residence program, which is described as “;a collaborative relationship between an artist, a community agency, and the Museum.”;

The department agreed, but pointed out three concerns.

One was durability of the artwork, since it was not painted, but rather attached to a concrete wall in segments like wallpaper. Two, “;There was no way we could guarantee someone wouldn't vandalize over it,”; Chang said.

Three, because of concerns over durability and vandalism, the department warned Fairey and the museum that there would come a time when it might have to be painted over.

“;The time was a month or so ago”; because “;the tagging over that was so extreme”; and “;did not honor”; Fairey's work at all, he said.

Chang said there was no way clean or repair it.

“;We thought it was a good deal for all of us”; and tried to maintain the artwork for as long as possible, but the graffiti had gotten so bad, the time had come to paint over it, he said.



To Jordan and Ken, two men in separate cars who stopped to help me Sunday morning, Oct. 26, as my car stopped on Farrington Highway. I was able to move it over to the side with what little power I had left, but was still dangerously in the path of oncoming cars. These two “;angels”; waited for a good opening, then pushed my car over to the other side of the road to await the tow truck. I was so thankful for their thoughtfulness and praise God for their help.—Jane