When I first saw the image of a downtown mural painted by Ralph Stearns with the news headline “Some downtown WF murals being washed away” I was immediately drawn in. I am an artist and muralist myself and I love all the new color that has found it’s way downtown, so of course this got my attention. That was exactly the intent of the misleading photo and headline, also known as click bait. However, this story is much worse than standard click bait, because once the viewer is drawn in they are fed half truths and flat out falsities.
The video starts out with a news anchor stating that “several murals are being removed from buildings in downtown Wichita Falls” which is a major exaggeration. In fact, there are 2 small, almost hidden, street art pieces (not all street art is a mural) that are the topic of this half-baked story. The main one being on the back of Wichita Falls Brewing Co, which consisted of 3 (not 2 as reported) babies playing dice.
The issue being pressed concerning downtown murals and street art is that painting on the raw brick of historic buildings permanently alters the aesthetics of the structure and can potentially aide in deterioration over time. This argument is fair enough and manager of 9th Street Studios, Stephen Taylor, agrees that historic structures should not be painted in this way. Much of the video includes an interview with the Studio manager and video footage is even edited to make it appear that Taylor is removing a popular mural that is on the side of the studio, when in fact it is footage of him preparing the wall to be painted. An important thing to note here is that 9th Street Studios and Ralph Stearn’s colorful eyes mural are nowhere near the Depot Square Historic District that is being discussed. A Martin Luther King tribute that is an indoor display is also shown multiple times. When I met with Taylor he said “I’m not sure why they interviewed me or kept showing 9th Street Studios. I think they used it and Ralph’s mural for shock value.” In fact, of all the several pieces shown in the news clip none of them are in the Depot District, and the art in question was never shown on camera.
(It might be noted that some historic buildings, such 817 Ohio where Half Pint is located, are completely painted when renovated.)
The clip says that the art didn’t meet the restrictions of the Landmark Commission, so the owners ended up taking it down. However, it was not taken down. It is still there and has been crudely spray painted over. This piece was also painted on an already painted building, not on exposed brick and therefore was in itself not in any violation.
Some sources believe that the piece was covered by the building’s previous owner and originator of the art. A recent Facebook post (pictured left) supports the idea.
In conclusion, we have a responsibility as a society to monitor and challenge the information that we are fed. We are the highest species because we have the ability to reason. Dream, create, and by all means, THINK.