Whale and Dolphin Mural Coating Protection Saves Public Art

You may have heard me talk about the protective anti-graffiti coating that was put onto a mural on an exterior wall at street level on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA with 100% access by tourists etc. and how it has survived over the last decade and a half in excellent condition, with no graffiti  that remains on it for more than a few hours because of an active neighborhood interest and action committee.

This is another case of the same thing. This mural of whales and dolphins in Santa Monica California, painted by Daniel Alonso in 1983 has been tagged many times and I can tell that some attempts of remove graffiti have damaged the paint in some areas. But the protective anti-graffiti layer that is on it now gives us a decent chance to remove the tag without damage. I just took 5 tags off this mural a Sat or two ago for the City of Santa Monica. Cuedos and compliments to Naomi Okuyama, Cultural Affairs Supervisor for the City of Santa Monic for a job well done to respond decisively to keep Santa Monica’s murals from looking like a backdrop of a movie of the zombie apocalypse.

An important thing to remember if you are wanting to protect outdoor public art is that: 1. there are 6 or 8 different kinds of spray paint that vary in difficulty to remove; 2. a lightly sprayed tag is easier to get off than: 3. a heavily applied tag; so its logical that multiple tags on top of each other are harder still to remove without damaging the artwork; 4 an anti-graffiti coating gives you more options for safe removal but it is not a magic barrier that graffiti does not stick to. 

In addition to the anti-graffiti layer, a part of the successful recipe for keeping the mural free
of defacement is a neighborhood watch and awareness and AS SOON AS a tag is noticed, someone jumps into action with a microfiber rag and a bottle of GooGone and removes the offender’s fooey. In this case, local residents called the city cultural affairs office (but the Beautification Dept or Public Works might handle this kind of thing in your community) and they called me immediately. The 5 tags we removed were on the mural for less than a week.

Any questions?  But, here’s a questions for you: If you have a mural (or other public art with paint on it) that is not in danger of being tagged, do you still need to varnish it? Here’s a quick video to show you something interesting: https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/murals/does-a-mural-need-varnish-if-graffiti-is-not-a-problem/

Call Scott M. Haskins and Virginia Panizzon, veteran art conservators, for a free consultation to discuss your situation and questions. 805 564 3438 gena.faclbusinessmanager@gmail.com

The Bolo Jesus or The Word by Kent Twitchell has not been in danger of graffiti on the Biola campus in La Mirada, CA but the mural was thoroughly coated to protect against hydrolysis: https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/murals/does-a-mural-need-varnish-if-graffiti-is-not-a-problem/

About Scott M. Haskins

Scott Haskins has been in professional art conservation since 1975, specializing in the conservation/restoration of easel paintings, murals and art on paper. FACL, Inc. is known nationally for doing A+ work no matter the size or difficulty of the project. We are happy to do a quick cleaning on a family heirloom. Our client list and resume is also full of very satisfied clients of large, difficult/complicated projects at remote locations. Excellent services are also available as an Expert Witness/Legal Testimony in art related matters. Consultation on art related projects occur regularly including extensive insurance evaluations for insured or insurer. Services are offered worldwide. Scott M. Haskins is also author of the "Save Your Stuff" series, educational information, materials and supplies to help people protect and save their treasured family heirlooms and collectibles at home and office. He can be reached at 805 564 3438. Video and written testimonials at https://www.fineartconservationlab.com/testimonials/
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17 Responses to Whale and Dolphin Mural Coating Protection Saves Public Art

  1. Harper Connors says:

    Hi Scott,

    I appreciate everything you and your team are doing for art pieces and murals! I always get upset when I see some murals across LA covered by graffiti. Why do kids do it? Why can’t they find better places to add their graffiti?

  2. Lauren says:

    I’ve had the pleasure to see Scott’s work and started following his social media, which is sooo educational and fun. I saw the before and the after of a bunch of different projects and the results are quite something. To anyone that needs someone who both knows what they are doing and also loves doing it, call Scott M. Haskins! Especially if it’s mural protection and restoration!

  3. Miguel Gonzalez says:

    “AS SOON AS a tag is noticed, someone jumps into action with a microfiber rag and a bottle of GooGone and removes the offender’s fooey.” – this right here should be known by everyone, in every city. This way it would be easy to get rid of unwanted graffiti without damaging the actual mural.

    • Riley Campbell says:

      The best way to handle graffiti is to contact a specialist as soon as possible. Calling someone who doesn’t know what they are doing will only damage the murals. Always call an expert and do it right away! In 99% of the cases murals can be “recovered” and further protected from graffiti and other problems.

      • Thanks Riley. Much of the success from neighborhood involvement will depend on the protective coating that the mural has on it. With a significant protective coating and with some coaching from a professional, much of the “maintenance” of graffiti removal can be done by volunteers in order to minimize costs.

  4. Samantha Pierce says:

    Before reading your site I had no idea graffiti can be so damaging to murals. I always thought it wasn’t so difficult to get out but boy was I wrong! I’m glad there are passionate people that a) protect these murals from vandalism and b) when all else fails, there are people like you, Scott that can come in and do their magic for these amazing street pieces!

    • Veronica says:

      Same here. It’s sad that the vast majority of people don’t appreciate these murals as much as they should. And it’s a shame not more of us know how to clean up graffiti. This country has a lot of wonderful murals that need to be protected and cleaned and we need more people to get involved in this!

  5. Stephen says:

    Why don’t all cities have a few places that are designed for kids/people to add their graffiti creation on? I think this would discourage kids from “creating” over murals, etc.

    • Its complicated, Stephen. Santa Monica has a place for taggers to go but that doesn’t keep them from defacing everything else too.

    • Clarice says:

      Yes this should be done. It’s always better to try and stop bad behaviors with something positive and not increase punishments. And there we should also encourage creation in every form (even graffiti) but done in the right setting.

  6. Andreea B. says:

    For me it’s hard to believe such a mural can stay untouched or rarely affected by graffiti. The community there must be doing an AMAZING job!

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