Photo by Steve Hedberg
What price should you put on public art?
Fans of the mural art going up on downtown buildings over the past two years might say it's priceless.
"The city has gotten its money's worth out of it," says Tony Harris, publisher of RVA Magazine and one of the driving forces behind the Art Whino project that so far has enticed more than 20 world-renowned mural artists from places like Italy, Brazil and Belgium to create nearly 50 murals.
At some point, however, another value may need assessment: the cost to erase, say, a series of 20-foot-high angry pandas from a wall.
Ashley Brinkley, who works at Pleasant's Hardware on Broad, has helped her share of property owners looking to erase street art from their homes and businesses.
"The first question is: Was the brick sealed before they painted it?" says Brinkley. "If it was previously
coated … then the paint on top of it arguably would be easier to remove."
But remove is probably too strong a word.
"If you're talking about getting it back to bare brick, the problem is if you use a chemical stripper, it almost rehydrates the paint," she says, "and more likely it's going to seep deeper in."
Painting over the problem is an option, too, but the paint alone could run anywhere from $200 to $400 for a 1,000-square-foot section of brick, according to Brinkley's estimation.
"You're pretty much going to have stained brick," Brinkley says.
For now, the issue remains on the back burner for Brinkley: "I think it's great to have public art up — it livens things up and it causes people to think."