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Chicken-Fried News: Wall gall

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Oklahoma Citians love their mural news.

Whether its controversy over the worthiness of public art not firmly rooted in the state’s cultural history, buzz about a new Thunder player tribute or controversial political statements made along the city’s busiest streets, the latest street art gossip always finds a way to drive the local conversation.

The latest mural outrage is no red herring — or is it?

The local arts community recently stood slack-jawed in the face of the surprising news that a popular piece by Bob Palmer, Oklahoma City’s godfather of muralists, on N. Western Avenue was unexpectedly painted over in fire-hydrant red.

NonDoc.com broke the story that quickly went viral on social media.

The mural, often seen by those pumping gas next door at the 7-Eleven near The Wedge Pizzeria and Horace Mann Elementary School, used to rest on the side of a building presently occupied by Alotta Action Advertising.

It was a pleasant, vintage-styled image of children enjoying a day of swimming and fun at the lake.

It wasn’t just shock from the mural’s sudden cover-up, but the frank quote the business owner gave NonDoc that really turned the community sour.

“That mural was ugly, and we are going to put a new mural on it,” owner Jen Hutchings told the website. “If you have any issues with it, you can contact my landlord, Rex Baker. Otherwise, I don’t need to be bothered with this.”

Such a quote shows either disrespect or ignorance of Palmer’s legacy in the arts.

Palmer has been a muralist for more than 20 years and has dozens of public works on display across the state and globe. His most known local work may be the Bricktown Santa Fe Railway train found near the intersection of N. E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and Robert S. Kerr Avenue.

Even if Hutchings found the mural ugly, Palmer has earned much more delicate and respectful care.

The artist told NonDoc that seeing his mural painted over for the first time felt like “being kicked in the stomach.”

Hutchings later apologized for her poor word choice in a statement to the media and said she plans on contacting local high-school art clubs to create a new mural in the old one’s wake.

It is truly sad that Palmer’s work received such cold treatment, but if there is a bright side to the story, it is the overwhelming support OKC has poured out for the artist.

In an era when murals are becoming more commonplace in the city, it’s touching to see the city still has a great deal of respect for its public-art pioneers.

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