The mural dedicated to honoring George Floyd on the River Trail ARTpath in Lansing, Michigan, was vandalized this week.
Painted by Flint, Michigan, artist Isiah Lattimore, the mural stands just under the Interstate-496 bridge in Lansing and shows a widely spread photo of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis by police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25. Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as Floyd grasped for air.
Floyd’s death sparked the outcry of Minneapolis, which later elevated to the rise of protests against police brutality and racism throughout the United States and around the world, which have carried on consistently since May.
On Lansing Art Gallery’s website, Lattimore said he was inspired after seeing how Genesee County Sheriff Christopher R. Swanson marched with protesters in his city. Lattimore’s goal is to inspire change and speak on issues through his paintings.
“I decided I wanted to do this mural when I watched the video of Flint's sheriff talking to and walking with protestors in Downtown Flint,” Lattimore said on the website. “I think all of the shootings and deaths of Black Americans we've seen over the last few years have all been worthy of attention and I speak on those issues more subtly in my canvas paintings. However, it was the moment of unity that I saw in my city that I felt was the first real example of a path toward a possible solution, and that was the message I wanted to bring to the public space. Not just that these injustices continue to happen in our nation, but that now is the time for all people to come together and inspire change.”
Editor's note: the original statement from Lattimore used "protestors" instead of "protesters."
When the mural was found on Tuesday, it was defaced with white spray paint.
A GoFundMe was started on Tuesday evening, with a goal of $1,000 to help Lattimore restore the project and alleviate the financial burden he would take on to return to Lansing and fix it.
Marissa Thaler, organizer of the GoFundMe, said that the restoration of the mural is a symbol of the unity the city wants to achieve.
“This vandalism is an affront to the unity our city is fighting to achieve," Thaler said in the GoFundMe description. "Let's send a message that this is bigger than a mural. This line of white spray paint embodies an ideal that is not welcome here. We are a strong community that is ready to step up and change the status quo by making this kind of nonsense unacceptable. No lives matter until Black lives matter. Additional funds raised will be allocated to additional Lansing public art.”
The GoFundMe amassed over $2,700 in just 14 hours after Thaler posted it. She updated the page saying she would be suspending the campaign and appropriately allocate the funds to restore the mural.
Community members have shown their support to both protect and restore the mural, from social media to making their way down to the mural to protect it.
Lansing resident Alissa McCoy posted the mural on Facebook, drawing attention to its destruction with over 445 shares.
Lansing Art Gallery’s Executive Director Barb Whitney released a statement regarding the vandalism, called a “A Vision for Hope.”
“'Walk with Me' was recently discovered with significant damage from white spray paint," Whitney said in the statement. "This harmful alteration to the artwork is damaging to the spirit of the work and to the artwork itself. Each year, we attempt to prevent damage to artwork through intentional artwork placement, security, lighting, and signage. Despite these measures public art has at times been damaged, destroyed, or intentionally altered.”
Whitney said the Lansing Art Gallery is working directly with Lattimore to help bring back the mural and support his vision.
“We’re proud to support Isiah’s vision toward hope for the future and are in the process of coordinating his repair of the mural,” Whitney said. “We recognize that ARTpath 2020 reflects the contributions of many, the voices of our community, and the perspectives of artists from across Michigan. We know that well over 50,000 people will experience the arts in person.”