The city of Seattle funded a street artist collective called Vivid Matter Collective, related to the Black Lives Matter movement, to produce a series of street art. This week they were rehired to restore a deteriorated painting, made in June, and great controversy erupted when they discovered that one of the artists had drawn messages of grievance against the police on one of the letters. 

According to Komo News, Vivid Matter, made up of 16 street artists, had made a $50,000 arrangement with the mayor in exchange for a certain number of artistic interventions in the city. 

During the June protests for racial equality on Capitol Hill, the 16 artists first painted the huge banner “Black Lives Matter” in the middle of the roadway on Pine Street between 10th and 11th avenues, which was designated as the central meeting place during the demonstrations.

The artwork deteriorated in a short time because the paint was applied to an unworked surface that was covered with slippery concrete. According to a statement from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture released on Sept. 22, after meeting with the artists who made the painting, they agreed on a comprehensive plan between the city and the artists for removal and recreation.

Work began in late September. The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, which has supported the movement from the beginning despite the violent disasters in the city, said the restoration of the street art recognizes the cultural importance of the area to the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to Komo News, on this occasion, the city commissioned the original artists, one for each letter, approximately $3,000 for the restoration work. The controversy sparked when they discovered that the letter ‘E’ in “Matter” had been painted with offensive messages against the police similar to the chants heard at protests and other violent graffiti seen throughout the city.

KOMO News contacted the office of Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan and a spokeswoman said she “believed” that the removal had already been requested, but she still disagreed with removing the insults from the artwork. 

Durkan, a supporter of the BLM movement, even pushed for funding for the Vivid Matter collective to make the interventions. 

Charlette LeFever confirmed her support, saying, “Our city and nation are in the midst of a reckoning with police violence and systemic racism, and the mayor believes that the preservation of public art and artistic expression is critical to the continued conversation around how to dismantle institutional barriers and build a better, more just society.”

What LeFever forgot, is that most citizens are not in favor of the BLM, even the vast majority are against the violent demonstrations that caused deaths, destruction of public buildings, and looting across the country. 

Therefore, as a government representative, you should understand that the actions of an artist who manifests violent and/or discriminatory ideals, in this case against the police, in public spaces and financed by the government itself, should be highly repugnant in any democratic system of government.

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