A notable mural of President Barack Obama in midtown Houston has been defaced for the last time; that's because a new mural will be put up in its place.
"I have mixed feelings," said Marcus Davis, owner of the Breakfast Klub, where the "Hope" mural has been since 2008. "I'm saddened by the fact that someone would do this, but I'm excited about the opportunity that it provides."
At about 5 p.m. Monday, Davis learned the mural had been splashed with red paint. The eyes on the President's portrait were no longer visible after they had been covered with red paint so thick that it dripped to the ground.
The Obama portrait had been a fixture on the brick wall since the President's first run for office. The building housed Mr. Obama's Houston campaign headquarters at the time. The mural had been defaced before, and each time it was restored, but this time was different.
"Though I was disappointed that someone would take it upon themselves to disrespect the President and somebody else's property through vandalism, I really thought of it as an opportunity to do something new," said artist Reginald Adams, one of the original muralists for the work.
Adams said Davis agreed with him that it was time to show the President in a new light. Adams had already created a new image of Mr. Obama he hoped to paint someday, somewhere. It shows President Obama, wearing sunglasses, pointing directly at the viewer. The unexpected act Monday evening provided the right place at the right time to make a change.
"It's a reminder that President Obama is about getting people involved," said Adams. "One of his campaign logos right now is 'Are you in?' And so he's pointing at the viewer, almost in a call for action to join him in this campaign."
The timing of the vandalism is no coincidence. It comes during a very heated campaign between the President and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney. But the Breakfast Klub just happens to have a Presidential Debate watch party planned for Tuesday evening which has now become a public painting party as well.
"It's the way in which I work," said Adams. "With all the 130 projects I've had around Houston, we've engaged over 20,000 youth and adults in the co-creation of this work. I'm very much about engaging the public in public art, and I think this is a wonderful opportunity to do just that."
So, Adams and Davis will encourage party attendees to pick up a paint brush and contribute to the effort once the debate wraps up. Meanwhile, Adams has prepared the canvas with multiple coats of white paint. He expects the new mural can be completed in 2 to 3 hours.
"Defacing this mural was someone's lack of understanding of what rights are," said Davis, who added that he believes the vandalism was the work an unknown Mitt Romney supporter. He says he'll report it to Houston police only if the restaurant's security cameras recorded actionable evidence for an investigation.
While the image of the President was "public art," it was still on private property. Davis said the fact that this vandalism is damage to his private property, appears to have escaped the conscience of the perpetrators.
"I don't get the hypocrisy of those who claim that the rights of the Constitution and the rights of American citizens are so sacred, then you easily violate that when it's convenient for you."