CHAPEL HILL — The artist is sick about it. The town is upset about it. And the restaurant owner isnt talking about it.
One of Chapel Hills downtown murals by hometown artist Michael Brown was painted over in recent days. A larger-than-life scene of a girl playing the flute and a boy playing a violin is now an empty black, brick wall.
Im very hurt. Im very disappointed, Brown said Wednesday. Given the quality of the work, and how many people loved it, Im not sure it was the most thoughtful citizenship, he said.
The untitled mural the artist lets passers-by come up with names had adorned the building at 421-423 W. Franklin St. since 2001, according to Mark McCurry, aide to Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. It was one of the oldest of the more than two dozen downtown murals, most of them Browns.
Brown and others are especially irritated because a 2008 Save the Murals campaign raised $1,500 to restore the flute mural.
This mural, it was a favorite, said Preservation Chapel Hill director Cheri Szcodronski, who still had the invoice for the restoration Wednesday.
Im pretty disappointed nobody called us, she said. We might have been able to come up with solutions.
The Franklin Street building houses the acclaimed Lantern restaurant, whose owner and award-winning chef Andrea Reusing did not return calls Tuesday and Wednesday. The front door was locked Wednesday afternoon.
The restaurant is expanding into a former arts supply store space next door, where workers have recently painted large sidewalk windows in the same black trim. Efforts to reach contractor Scott McLean of McLean Building Co. on Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful.
There is no town ordinance that prevents a private property owner from painting over a mural, and Brown said he paints them knowing they might not last.
But mayors aide McCurry and Jeffrey York, Chapel Hills public and cultural arts administrator, said they too are trying to understand what happened. The town has promoted the murals as Chapel Hill attractions. The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau printed a postcard of the flute mural.
Im a little miffed, York said. Im dismayed.
Generally, it would be inconceivable somebody would paint over a piece of public art without thinking about it, McCurry said.
This isnt the first downtown mural to be painted over, Brown said. Tropical birds on the old Patio Loco Mexican restaurant down the street are gone. An advertisement now mars a mural on East Rosemary Street.
Were losing them one by one, he said.