Officials at the Knoxville Museum of Art are both angry and saddened by a graffiti attack that has disfigured the wall surrounding the museum’s sculpture garden.
“It’s horrible,” said David Butler, the museum’s executive director. He said the same kind of markings have defaced several other buildings in the nearby Fort Sanders neighborhood. “It happens in waves,” he said.
Greg Hall, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said a similar attack occurred about 10 years ago and was very costly to repair. “It’s a shame that when we are trying to support our cultural institutions in these difficult economic times, that we have a few people causing us this unnecessary expense. Now we’ll have to use money to clean this up that we could have used on programs.”
Fortunately, another museum board member, Mark Heinz, is an architect with Dewhirst Properties. He is working to get the repairs done as economically as possible. “It’s terrible. It’s not art. It’s just kids,” Heinz said.
Butler said the damage is particularly difficult to repair because the wall is made of Tennessee marble, which is a very porous material. It has soaked up the paint or ink that was used. Heinz has applied a kind of putty to the surface in an attempt to draw the color out of the stone. But that hasn’t worked very well and he said today he is consulting with experts to see if there is a better product that can be used.
There has long been a debate over whether graffiti is a form of vandalism or a form of art. When asked if it was ironic that the museum, a defender of all kind of creative arts, now finds itself the victim of a graffiti attack, Butler paused. “I guess it’s a form of artistic expression,” he said. “But it’s also vandalism.”
Hall agreed. “As an art institution, the KMA admires visual expressions of creativity,” he said. “However, vandalism costs money and impedes the museum’s ability to provide programming for our community.”