A Gaia Mural Gone: Can We Embrace Public Art in DC?

by Borderstan.com August 10, 2010 at 9:00 pm 1,553 5 Comments

THIS mural is still there: Gaia’s “Chicken” is on the wall on the east side of the Logan Hardware building on the 1400 block of P Street NW, behind Irvine Contemporary on 14th Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

A couple of months ago semi-local artist Gaia had an exhibit at Irvine Contemporary. I started to see his work around the city and photographed some of his pieces, posting one from 14th and Q NW on One Photograph a Day.

Gaia also painted a mural on a wall behind the P Street Whole Foods–and now it is gone, removed by the store. I read the story yesterday about how the mural disappeared at TBD.com. Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of it.

I don’t like tagging and destructive graffiti; they are never good for a community or neighborhood. But to me there are a couple of  things to consider here. First, Gaia’s work is truly Street Art. Second, it wasn’t even on a street facade–it was in an alley. Due to the nature of Gaia’s work, it would eventually disappear. He uses large sheets of paper, which he paints on and then attaches to walls.

Why can’t Washington enthusiastically embrace art in public spaces such as alleys? What, exactly, was so objectionable about Gaia’s mural that a neighbor–facing an alley of trash cans and delivery trucks–demanded its removal? Wasn’t it obvious that this piece of art was not the work of a vandal?

Philadelphia, for example, has tons of beautiful murals all over the city and has even created city tours of murals and street art. It was sad that in the rush to remove the mural that there wasn’t time to talk about the mural… that no one contacted Irvine Contemporary before destroying Gaia’s mural.

What I find somehow funny, and most ironic, is that now the wall has three huge patches of  lightly colored paint on a red wall. No art, just splotches of paint. But, apparently, it doesn’t offend anyone.

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