By John Paul Titlow
When Lauren Cassady first saw the photos on Facebook, she was infuriated. A friend of hers from the East Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia had posted pictures of the side of a building with a large graffiti tag containing the word “Spain.”
Graffiti on a brick wall is not that unusual in Philadelphia, but for residents of the neighborhood, this tag was particularly irksome. It was made on a mural by Shepard Fairey, the world-renowned street artist most famous for creating the iconic “hope” poster of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Fairey and a team of artists came to Philadelphia on April 23, 2010, and produced three murals, of which this was one. In mid-January of this year, residents noticed that the mural had been defaced with the large black and white tag.
After seeing photos of the tagged mural, Cassady, a professional art conservator, volunteered to come to the corner of Frankford Avenue and Norris Street two days per week to remove the graffiti.
To remove the spray paint and marker used to make the graffiti, Cassady sits on a bucket in front of the mural, slowly dabbing the tagged portion of it with a solvent-soaked Q-Tip.
“It’s a very slow process,” said Cassady. “You can’t use a lot of solvent at a time, or else you will harm the original work.”
She won’t be able to remove the tag completely, but hopes to get the mural as close to its original state as possible.
Cassady isn’t being paid to restore the mural, but rather volunteered to do it for her portfolio and because she genuinely enjoys restoring artwork, however tedious it might seem.
“It’s pure zen to me,” she said. “I just love it.”