by Ian Gerber,
from: The Lafayette Journal & Courier
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Downtown Lafayette will soon be a little more colorful thanks to the Small Spaces art project.
As News 18 previously reported, artist Zach Medler is planning the Small Spaces project to paint murals on small abandoned spaces and exterior walls in downtown Lafayette.
Medler and 12 to 15 other street artists will soon begin painting the wall located on 219 Main St. in downtown Lafayette. The wall will be a showcase of the talents of all of the artists participating in the project.
Medler said the wall will be the biggest collaboration of the project.
“I’m really excited about this wall,” said Medler. “This is a big wall and this is a way that we can incorporate all of the small stuff into sort of a base piece.”
Medler also said the hardest part is getting people to understand the purpose of the project.
“We really don’t want to mess up anything here. We want to work with everybody,” Medler said. This isn’t graffiti. This isn’t illegal. This is legal and we want to be able to work with the community.”
Painting for the project is expected to start in July and last until late September.
The artist behind the controversial Ferguson-inspired depiction of a riot cop said the piece was originally intended to be part of a bigger project meant to raise "unanswered questions about our current social environment as Americans."
Aaron Molden, an artist on the "small spaces: Lafayette" project, said in an email that his piece is benign, yet aimed at creating commentary on the trajectory of law enforcement in the U.S. He declined a phone interview.
The piece was installed Aug. 24 outside Sylvia's Brick Oven but was promptly covered over after it drew complaints from Lafayette police officers, who called it "offensive."
Local police object to city-sanctioned art
"It was not a complete piece," Molden wrote. "It was the first step in what was (or will be) a much broader and more complex piece, meant to reflect the current transition of what it once meant to be law officer in the United States compared to what it means today and possibly the future.
"Ferguson, like any sensationalized media event, is more of a catalyst to think about things that we usually like to pretend we do not think about," he added. "Law officers are being militarized in this country and I believe (because every time I see it, it scares me) that leads people to an us versus them mentality when it comes to police officers. I will never have that thought because I was raised by a police officer — my father — and I know he's a good man.
"When I decided to draw that image, what I saw was a man, no doubt tired, but still completing his duty whether he liked it or not."
Molden doesn't believe there's necessarily a "bully cop" mentality locally: "I've been enough places in the United States to know that Lafayette and West Lafayette are pretty safe places to live. I think police misconduct around here is more of result of frustration and human error."
Finally, Molden wrote of his piece: "Please take a second to look at what you are actually seeing and let it set in before you jump to conclusions."
...the controversy highlights the importance of encouraging, not suppressing, dialogue about "bully cop" mentalities.
"I feel bullied right now," he said.
A piece of street art invoking the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, was taken down Monday after complaints that it was "offensive" and "in bad taste."
An illustration of a cop in riot gear, pasted on the side of Sylvia's Brick Oven, 625 Columbia St., facing Lafayette Police Department headquarters, is now covered by red paint that barely masks the dark, gritty lines. The piece, by artist Aaron Molden, was part of "small spaces: Lafayette," a public arts project, funded and sanctioned by the city, that aims to "funkify" Lafayette with street and graffiti-style art.
The project drew strong reactions when it was presented to the Historic Preservation Committee earlier this summer. Some members were worried that spray-painted artwork would clash with Lafayette's historic nature. The riot cop piece is the first to be taken down as a result of complaints.
Zach Medler, curator of the "small spaces" project, said the controversy highlights the importance of encouraging, not suppressing, dialogue about "bully cop" mentalities.
"I feel bullied right now," he said.
"My issue with it is free speech. The situation in Ferguson was why they were offended to begin with. ... When police complain about it, now we run into First Amendment issues."
Dick Nagel, owner of Sylvia's Brick Oven, said he received multiple calls from Lafayette police officers asking if the piece was illegal graffiti. After Nagel explained that the piece was sanctioned by the city, they responded with outrage, he said.
Aaron Molden’s riot police-inspired piece is now covered in red paint. (Photo: Wei-Huan Chen/Journal & Courier)
"The officers questioned why it was there and said they were in bad taste and offensive," Nagel said.
Nagel passed along the officers' concerns to Margy Deverall, project manager for "small spaces: Lafayette," who decided the piece should be removed.
Medler covered the piece with red paint.
"If someone voiced their opinion, they didn't check with us first," police Chief Patrick Flannelly said. Officers were speaking in an unofficial capacity, he added.
"But from what I saw, I can understand why an officer might be upset."
The piece will soon be replaced, though Medler said he doesn't expect everyone to be happy with the new art.
"You'll have to wait and see what it is," he said. "It'll be good."