Someone is not happy with the changes undergoing the Whimcycle mural in Roanoke’s Old Southwest neighborhood. The mural, on the side of the building now known as The Phoenix, is being replaced – with a new piece by the original artist, Toobz Muir! – and this week someone decided to deface the new piece with a bit of critical graffiti.
Here’s the art critic’s commentary:
First of all, since the new piece isn’t even finished yet, it’s hard to credit the statement.
Anyways: why, you ask, is a transportation program writing about a piece of defaced public art?
It’s because we believe in community. We know that transportation isn’t an end unto itself. The infrastructure and decisions and behaviors that make up our transportation system form a complex web that ties our neighborhoods together and connects them to neighborhoods elsewhere. It’s because we know that transportation, despite what the wise men may say, really is about the destination – and the origin, for that matter. Without interesting places to live and interesting places to go, there’s no reason to move anywhere. Likewise, when transportation infrastructure separates us from our environment (for example, by working harder to get us past our neighborhoods than connect us with our neighborhoods), we know the quality of our places suffer. It’s why, though we have nothing against driving an automobile, we think that walking and biking and taking the bus are all transportation choices that allow us to better experience the places we pass through.
Those beliefs are why we worked with the Roanoke Art Mural Project (RAMP) to sponsor the Whimcycle mural to begin with (link goes to my comments at the mural dedication). We love public art and similar efforts to make places interesting and valued. We were thrilled to work with RAMP and Toobz to make the mural happen.
Of course, we were sad to see it go, too.
But then, places change, and we love that even more. The success of The Phoenix in Old Southwest is something to be celebrated, and that change is something to be acknowledged. If we’re successful in our efforts to get more people connected with their community, then of course those communities are going to transform as more people take ownership of the places they live and work. That’s the goal, really.
The graffiti artist may have meant well, but they missed the point (and not just because Toobz is painting the replacement, too). The point is that Old Southwest is better – as are neighborhoods across the Roanoke Valley – and maybe it’s time for a new way to say that.
I don’t know that the final mural is going to look like, but I do know that I am going to enjoy it as I ride past it each morning on my way to work.
And to the graffiti artist to tagged the mural in progress, might I suggest that if you don’t like what’s going up on this wall, find another one – there are lots and lots around, begging for some attention – and put something beautiful on it.