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What Happens When People Hurt Our Public Art?

Wichita is full of amazing public art that gives our city character. It belongs to all of us. And when it is vandalized, it hurts. It hurts emotionally, financially and it hurts the culture of our city.

Last year, the beloved Troll by artist Connie Ernatt was vandalized. The arm was broken off of this bronze sculpture and it was disheartening to see happen to one of Wichita’s best public artworks.

In Old Town, the public art gets vandalized all the time. The most recent case was last December when the sculpture Hover by Nashville artist Jeremy Jones was pulled to the ground. Seeing images of the six-foot figure lying broken and beaten made this feel like a violent crime.

But the recent vandalism of the immigration mural at 21st and Park is a much different type of desecration. While the mural has now been restored, the intentionality of the racist words, coupled with the similar vandalism of Bluebird Arthouse, reveals a deeply troubling divide in our city.

Yet, this hateful act has become the catalyst for peaceful activism and validates the efforts of artist and activist Armando Minjarez, who organized the mural with high school students last year. It now serves rallying point for the new organization ICT-Army of Artists, also spearheaded by Minjarez.

The mural’s statement “Immigration is Beautiful” affirms our country’s diversity, and now a response has been given. Now it is a conversation. Granted, this is not the best starting place, but it is a start.