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Artists who worked on Indy's Black Lives Matter mural set out to cover up vandalism

Despite the vandalism, the artists remain steadfast, ready to restore with even more people showing up to help.

INDIANAPOLIS — Several of the 18 artists who helped paint the Indiana Avenue Black Lives Matter mural are speaking out.

During a virtual interview, the artists talked with 13News not only about what's next after having their art vandalized, but also about the impact the vandalism has had on them.

The finished project of the Black Lives Matter mural on Indiana Avenue shows all the hard work put in by the artists. Each of them expressed how thrilled they are just about the opportunity. This is a first-of-its-kind public art display in the Circle City connected to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Amiah Mims has been expressing herself through her artwork for years. But as a young artist, landing a chance to be a Black Lives Matter mural artist is a big deal. 

"I was a little nervous. I had never painted anything that large before or flat. But it was exciting," said Mims.

Nathaniel Rhodes is the type of artist that remains emotionally attached to the chance to create art. He heard about the Black Lives Matter mural and wanted to be a part of the historic creation right away. Rhodes had been in a slump because it had been months since he had created any art. When organizers contacted him with the news he would be painting part of Indiana Avenue, it saved the day. 

"It meant everything. I had not done anything in a year," he said.

Local artist Rebecca Robinson had been on pins and needles waiting to learn if she would be one of the 18 selectees to work on the mural.

"When I got the notification that I was in, I was extremely honored. I am still in awe," said Robinson.

The day of the painting, Rebecca was so excited that she painted her portion even after a bad fall. Still, she pushed through the pain and completed her artwork. One of her friends loaned her a wrist wrap to help. It worked, too. The next day, Rebecca learned her injury was more than just a wrist sprain. 

During painting day, the city closed Indiana Avenue with road blocks for the safety of the artists. Stacia Murphy is one of the organizers who continually tries to get light shined on local artists whose talents are sometimes overlooked. Murphy knew all along what a big deal it meant to the artists. The selection process was tense and non-stop. Still, Murphy stayed determined to make sure the painting happened sooner than later.

"What's gratifying is to be able to give to artists who may not get those same type of opportunities," she said. 

The 18 artists, some of whom met for the first time ever, already knew that their artwork would possibly be the target of criticism and, even worse, vandals. Over the weekend, someone splattered a trail of white paint through the artwork that reads "#BlackLivesMatter."

Mural artist John G. Moore had anticipated what might happened to their creations.

"You know that is a possibility, so you get your mind right that you put in all this work and someone could mess it up," he said.

The original is messed up with the splattered white paint, but not the message in the artwork. The artists told 13News they wanted people to experience their creations and leave Indiana Avenue with a message about the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"The fact that we have to paint these letters, the fact that we have to paint this message on the street is sad. It's disheartening," Rhodes said.

Despite the vandalism, the artists remain steadfast, ready to restore with even more people showing up to help.

"Obviously, we are hitting a point, and the people that have a problem with it are showing up," said artist Shane Young.

There is a list of local artists who are anxious to help repair the damage done by the vandals. The artists themselves have also committed to a do-over, despite their busy schedules. Many of the 18 have made new connections not only with each other, but also the hundreds of people who have already visited Indiana Avenue to see the mural. 

"There are people who want to help restore the art," Stacia Murphy said. "They are still coming in, even to help repaint."

People continue to visit the mural, even after the vandalism. Anyone with information about the vandalism can call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 317-262-TIPS.

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