San Francisco neighbors wanted mural, but taggers had other plans

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Officials said taggers defaced a donated mural under a bridge in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood for a second time. (KGO-TV)

Nancy Ellen said she just wanted to make the world better.

But in a story that comes from our partners at Hoodline, Ellen quickly learned that beauty is still very much in the eye of the beholder. Ellen lives in a shiny new building on a block of Beale Street that's plagued by litter and vandalism. "I have dreamed about doing something in this territory under the bridge to beautify the neighborhood," she said.

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She got her chance when she met an artist looking to donate a mural. Mobina Nouri studies the intersection of art and science, and says cities create stress that art can help take away. She volunteered to create a tapestry of local landmarks on the concrete wall of an underpass, using a robot called SprayPrinter that makes giant murals out of tiny dots. Once the design was complete, it took only one day to paint.

People were so excited walking by and because it's a techy thing, it's interesting," Ellen said.


The excitement lasted two weeks, until one night when the streets were crowded with people after a Giants home game. "The next morning, there was a tag on there," she said, showing ABC7 News a photo of the bright green bubble letters painted over the mural. "My heart sank, because I always thought that people honored artists, they would never do that."

Nouri said it's often true that in the world of street art, taggers and mural painters show respect for each other's work. In that spirit, she said she opted to fix the mural, but leave the tag mostly intact. "We changed the design in a way to embed their tag inside the design," she said.


She'd planned to paint a man with a spray can, tagging the side of a wooden house. But when the painting crew arrived, a group of men ran off with their paint. "They came back with the spray cans they stole, and sprayed it totally across the whole thing," Ellen said. "Nothing could be done with the art after that. It was ruined."

As workers remove what's left of the mural, its advocates are dejected, but not defeated. They hope they can talk to the taggers, or even work together.

"Because we believe our mission is war on boring walls, not war with people," Nouri said.
Related Topics:
societyartgraffitimural artsdistractioncrimeSan FranciscoSouth of Market
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