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Vandal defaces 3 downtown murals
Damage at $10,000; Crime Stoppers post reward
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“Robin You Sure Have A Pretty Smile,” was scrawled in 12- to 15-inch block letters across the “Cruising” mural in the 100 block of North Main Street sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. The art work is on the north side of the Accent Carpet business. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Three of downtown Manteca’s 10 original murals were defaced with 15-inch block letters from a white spray paint can Tuesday night causing an estimated $10,000 in damage.

“This is the worst we have experienced – it was just horrible,” Mural Society coordinator Tom Wilson said.  “Everybody in the Mural Society (more than 200 members) is just sick about what happened.”

Gayl Wilson was working with the freshly dried paint Wednesday afternoon trying to remove some of it with turpentine and with denatured alcohol and acetone.  It has to be done so carefully as those removing it do not want to get deeper into the actual art work. Much of the markings to the Cruising mural had been removed to a large degree by dusk on Wednesday.

Volunteers  attempting to remove as much of the paint as possible included Terri Pasquinni, Michelle Zachlod and Janna Kattenhorn.

Manteca Police spokesman Rex Osborn said the Crime Stoppers organization is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for damaging  the art work.  Anyone may remain anonymous by calling 823-4636.

Some 50 to 60 feet of block letters were found on the “Cruising” mural Wednesday morning that is located on the north side of the Accent Carpets building in the 100 block of North Main Street.  The tagging read, “Robin You Sure Have A Pretty Smile.”

The letters went through the faces of the high school students who were pictured in their cars of long ago cruising Yosemite Avenue.   Those faces were painted by Ella Yates from Colorado.  She will have to be brought back to Manteca to repair the damage as well as primary artist Dave Gordon who is expected to be here next week to work on the murals.

Wilson said the big question is finding the real “Robin” figure in the tagging, hoping she could point to the tagger.  It could conceivably bring her the $1,000 Crime Stoppers’ reward offer creating a surprise twist to the felonious incident.

The second mural to be tagged was the “Pumpkin Harvest” mural located along the side of a building on the west side of the 100 block of North Main Street.  Those letters read, “Now You Know How I Fell.”

The third mural to be damaged Tuesday night was on the west wall of the PG&E building in the 200 block of East Yosemite Avenue.  It will probably be the most expensive to repair, Wilson said, because of how it was created.  Interestingly enough the tagger didn’t know how to spell Manteca – his version was Manta – although he had no problem spelling the obscene word accompanying it.

The murals have been in Manteca for six years starting with the “Crossroads Mural” at the intersection of Yosemite and Main streets that followed intense fund raising efforts to add a definite ambiance to the downtown’s empty and spacious walls.  

“I think everyone in Manteca takes ownership of the murals, and they do belong to the 60,000-plus residents here,” Wilson said.

There has been very little tagging done to the murals during the last six years.  The Rotary International mural across from the post office on Maple Avenue was attacked three weeks in a row by a Lathrop man who objected to polio vaccine shown being given to children on the art work.

The Free-for-All mural depicting children’s farm life in a rural barn in the 100 block of South Maple Avenue had some small damage done to a horse in the painting that was created by a work party of community members.   But other than that the murals have drawn a definite respect from Mantecans who have continually voiced their approval and enjoyment.

The Manteca Historical Society has conducted weekly tours of the murals for visitors and have published a small brochure highlighting the artworks for locals and out-of-towners alike.

Wilson said the Mural Society is going to live up to its promise to cover the maintenance needs of the murals especially from any destructive acts.  Anyone wishing to help with donations toward the restoration of the murals is urged to call Tom Wilson at 988-1971.