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Volunteers remove paint from 'Welcome to Kingston' sign

Susan Rodgers sent this email at 5:51 p.m. Thursday, the day the Welcome to Kingston mural was vandalized: I went down to the mural this evening with a soapy wet rag to see if it would work on removing the paint from the art panels. I found it had already been cleaned halfway! Had to be someone at least six feet tall. Now that
Susan Rodgers sent this email at 5:51 p.m. Thursday, the day the Welcome to Kingston mural was vandalized: I went down to the mural this evening with a soapy wet rag to see if it would work on removing the paint from the art panels. I found it had already been cleaned halfway! Had to be someone at least six feet tall. Now that's the Kingston I know!
— image credit: Susan Rodgers

KINGSTON ­— Pssst. Hey, you — the one with the gall to vandalize the "Welcome to Kingston" mural on the side of the CenturyLink building.

A lot of people in town are looking for you. And when you're found, Susan Rodgers has a job for you, one in which you could make amends and put those paint skills of yours to good use.

"There are a lot of places in town that could use a nice coat of paint," Rodgers said. "Obviously, you know how to use a paint roller."

People close to the mural project rebounded from their shock at the site of the vandalism Thursday and expected to have it all cleaned up by Friday. Fortunately, the mural has an anti-graffiti finish. By late Thursday, volunteers led by Dave Wetter of the Village Green Foundation had scrubbed the paint off to about the 6-foot level, then returned the next day with a ladder and power washer to finish the job.

The series of scenic panels affixed to two walls of the CenturyLink building was discovered Thursday morning vandalized with gray paint. The panels, placed as a welcome to Kingston, are seen by all motorists heading onto the peninsula from the state ferry landing.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking to people here," local photographer Johnny Walker said Thursday of the vandalism. "A lot of effort went into getting that done."

Rodgers, owner of Cleo's Landing and organizer of the mural project, took to social media Thursday to recruit a cleaning party for Saturday at 9 a.m. But thanks to the efforts of volunteers, it was clear Friday that no cleaning party would be needed.

"Who would have done this and why — that's the bigger thing," Rodgers said Thursday. "If you don't like this art, why not speak out or write a letter to the newspaper?"

Rodgers said the person or persons that committed this vandalism put a lot of effort into it. "It looks like somebody took a gallon of [house] paint, threw it on these panels, took a roller and rolled that paint across the images," she said. "Why? What's the point?"

The panels were done by local artist Brad Pugh and replaced a decade-old mural that Rodgers said was "weathered and tired." The older mural, too, had been tagged.

Pugh's project was the result of two years of planning and $6,500 in funds raised in the community. The panels can be removed if needed, as opposed to a mural that is painted directly onto a wall. Pugh's work was installed in May.

"It was seen as a refreshing change to the waterfront," Walker said.

Rodgers called the vandalism "a big bummer." But by Friday, her prediction about the mural came true: "It's fun. And it will be fun again."

Meanwhile, $175 had been pledged on Facebook as reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the vandalism. A sheriff's deputy visited the scene Thursday and is investigating. And CenturyLink may light the walls at night, Rodgers said.

 

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