Since its completion in 2012, the Umbrella Wall in Tacoma’s Dome District has been a destination for people seeking a playful backdrop for photographs.
Graduating high school seniors, moms with toddlers, young couples recently engaged have trooped down to 220 Puyallup Avenue to have their pictures made in front of the whimsical mural, which depicts dozens of brightly colored umbrellas against a sky-blue background.
“It’s really neat,” said Larry Hosley, who, along with his wife, Theresa Pan Hosley, owns nearby Seasons Travel. “People from all over come here to get their picture taken.”
Someone who visited in the dark of night last week had a different agenda.
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Armed with what is believed to be a fire extinguisher filled with red paint, a vandal or vandals defaced the mural, spraying what appears to be three huge letters in the upper left portion of the artwork.
Rivulets of red streaked down the blue sky and across several of the umbrellas near the bottom of the wall.
Larry Hosley, who’s seen his share of graffiti in an around the Dome District, some of it artistic, declared the act “a real shame.”
“That’s not the work of a graffiti artist,” he said. “That’s just pure destruction.”
Hosley and others reported the vandalism to the city, which is developing a plan to clean it up.
“The city has been very responsive,” Hosley said.
A crew tested a few spots to see whether the red paint could be removed. The original mural was treated with an anti-graffiti coating after its completion.
They met with mixed success.
The red paint came off the wall’s smoother surfaces, but had seeped into cracks and crevices in other parts of the concrete face and will be harder to get off.
City art director Amy McBride said Friday there are two options for clean-up.
One is hiring a firm that specializes in graffiti removal to take off the paint. That would cost about $1,000, McBride said.
The other option is getting the original artist to repaint the damaged portions of the mural.
“It’s so disheartening. It’s just totally disrespectful,” McBride said. “We’re trying to get the clean-up done as quickly as possible.”
The Umbrella Wall is one of 28 murals created in the city since 2010 as part of the Tacoma Mural Project. An image of the painting serves as the cover photo on the Tacoma Mural Projects Web page.
Chris Sharp was the lead artist on the Umbrella Wall project. He and Kate Cendejas, Yvette Simone and Janice Lee Warren spent a couple of weeks, mostly working on weekends, to complete the piece.
Sharp said the design is meant to reflect the movement and diversity of the Dome District, which as one of the city’s transportation hubs attracts people from all backgrounds.
He called the vandalism “an interesting sort of gesture.”
“I thought the fire-extinguisher method of throwing a tag up had seen its day,” Sharp said.
Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said she could find no reports about the vandalism in the department’s computer system.
If someone is identified as the culprit, he or she faces a gross misdemeanor charge of graffiti vandalism, which under municipal code is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.