Man "Whitewashes" Beloved Kurt Vile Mural

The defacing of one of Philly's 3,600-plus murals has sparked outrage.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A man armed with a paint brush roller and white paint defaced the beloved Kurt Vile mural in Fishtown Saturday. The damage to the Philly musician's mural was captured by a passerby who took to social media immediately. 

    Instagrammer Najeeb Sheikh posted a photo after witnessing a man buffing the mural. "Sick to my stomach," Sheikh wrote. He asked the buffer why he was painting over the mural and the man responded he was tired of it attracting graffitti.

    "It's really tragic," said Jane Golden, Mural Arts Program founder and executive director. "It's really heartbreaking to see this happen. We are really lucky that we have an extraordinary collection of public art in Philadelphia and we should never take it for granted."

    The Vile mural, located on Front Street between Thompson and Master Street, is not associated with the more than 3,600 murals created by the city's well-known Mural Arts Program, but Golden has reached out to offer her support to help make sure a restoration happens. She said the defacing was "just so surprising" because of Fishtown's history.  

    After Philly Magazine posted a story about Sheikh's Instagram post, the alleged buffer responded in the comments section online issuing an apology. Turns out the buffer -- DJ Lee Mayjahs -- is also a member of the music scene.

    "What I did yesterday was the most stupid and selfish thing I have ever done. I think I literally had a mental breakdown and lost my mind there," Mayjahs wrote.

    Vile is skeptical. 

    "As much as I want to believe his story and apology (and accept the apology in the way that I feel sort of sorry for him), I'm still more so bummed so I dunno about 'genuinely accepting' his apology," Vile said.

    Vile privately commissioned artist and Philly native Stephen "ESPO" Powers to create a mural for his "Wakin on a Pretty Daze" album in 2012. The whole mural creative process was filmed and became the storyline for one of the album's music videos.

    Philly journalist Leah Kauffman talked to Mayjahs and posted the interview on Facebook, including the troubled DJ's explanation for why he buffed.

    The apology and explanation was not sincere and acceptable, according to neighbor Conrad Benner.

    "People love that mural. It combines two Philly things -- Vile and Powers -- and they have done well for themselves. We take pride in it," said Benner, a Fishtown blogger and photographer.

    "If he (the buffer) had a problem, he should have talked to the city or business owner. There was a better way to handle it."

    NBC10.com reached out to Mayjahs who responded in an email on Monday.

    "I am not really interested in creating more drama about what happened and talking about it more," Mayjahs wrote. "I literally had a momentary lapse of reason and took out my anger on someone else’s art. I have let down my family, community and neighborhood.  I am talking with both the artist and the consigner to redo the art as quickly as possible. All I can hope for in this sad situation is that something good comes of it that helps make our neighborhood and Philadelphia a better place to live. I am not sure how that will manifest but I am praying for that."

    Vile took to Facebook to let his fans know he is working to have the work restored and posted: "Bummer of a day yesterday. The mural that was painted for the cover of Wakin' was defaced. We're all working on plans to have it redone and updated."

    Golden wants the public to know that they are encouraged to reach out to the Mural Arts Program if they see graffitti.

    "There are many ways to deal with this other than whiting out a work of art," Golden said.

     
     


    Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.