Photo above by Brian Addison. Photo below courtesy of David Van Patten.
UPDATE, February 13: Art Exchange responded with the following:
We appreciate the community concern and we agree, it’s heartbreaking to see beautiful art go, but it’s equally heartbreaking to see it become aged, dilapidated and abused with graffiti. It was a difficult, but necessary decision to paint over the mural. All of the buildings were given a fresh coat of paint, with the help of a dedicated volunteer team, as an interim fix until we are able to complete a full exterior renovation of the building. We value community input and ask that you to get involved as a volunteer to help us make these decisions in the future.
This is how the mural looked as of January 22, 2017:
ORIGINAL STORY: For the second time in Long Beach, a mural from the famed Pow! Wow! collective has been removed without the artist even knowing; following the removal of Fafi’s mural on 4th, this time, the youth-inspired mural by Jasper Wong at the Art Exchange building on 3rd has been painted black.
When Wong, artist and founder of the acclaimed Pow! Wow! art collective, first stepped into the Art Exchange in Long Beach—just after his first successful year launching Pow! Wow! Long Beach, effectively making DTLB home to SoCal’s most impressive outdoor museum—he was taken aback by the enthusiasm of the artists, specifically David Van Patten. Wong was enamored enough that he offered Van Patten a coveted wall to turn into a mural for Pow! Wow! Long Beach 2016.
Even more, Jasper partnered with Microsoft to create his own mural on the western facing wall of the building in the hopes to inspire young artists, thinkers, and innovators to do one thing: great things.
“The concept centered on young people being inspired to do great things—hence the quote on the mural,” Wong said. “In this case, two of my characters were drawn to space and another to nature. I’m also thought about the tools needed to do great things, such as paintbrushes, spray cans, binoculars, and telescopes… I had no idea [the painting over it] was happening.”
For Van Patten, Wong’s mural was one of his favorites.
“This mural was deeply adored by everyone I’ve talked to in the community,” Van Patten said. “The decision to paint over it is shameful, heartless, and out of touch with the feelings of the community and the impact Pow! Wow! has had on our city.”
As of Sunday morning, the entirety of the mural was covered.
“I understand that it is normal for murals to get painted over in time, but this mural was done by an international artist and a person who has deeply influenced how art is consumed in Long Beach, how our city is viewed by outsiders—it is an extreme sign of disrespect against this artist who brought so many amazing things to the Long Beach community,” Van Patten said.
Some have also speculated that the mural was never formally sanctioned—an odd claim given the length its been up, the coverage it received, and Microsoft’s sponsorship. That being said, the Art Exchange has yet to return comment for this story but we will publish responses should one be given to us.
“It is always the building owner’s right to paint over a mural, but perhaps they should survey the opinion of the community before they do it or else they can expect an intense backlash, especially with a mural as good as this one they senselessly covered,” Van Patten said. “Long Beach is not like Los Angeles where murals are a dime a dozen. There are still so few murals in Long Beach, considering the size of this city-and even fewer murals that really speak to people’s hearts. Losing this mural was like losing a friend.”