SAN FRANCISCO - The future of a large mural about the AIDS crisis in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood is uncertain after someone defaced it in recent weeks.
It was created more than 20 years ago and many of the artists have died.
Community members said it's a cultural landmark that needs to be restored and protected.
"This is a very large mural that tells a story. There's so much history here crammed in," said neighbor Dennis Richards.
The mural named 'Hope for the World Cure' at the corner of Market and 16th streets tells the stories behind the AIDS epidemic, remembering lives lost.
"This is like gay folk art," said Richards.
It's been up for 23 years.
Time has faded its vibrancy.
And in recent weeks, someone defaced it, tagging it with large black letters.
"I was kind of horrified. I thought that there was a code among taggers that you don't tag over somebody else's mural," said Richards.
Old photos illustrate what the mural looked like when it was created in 1998.
17 artists with Art from the Heart Heals who were suffering from aids designed the mural and collaborated with Precita Eyes Muralists.
"Here are some of the artists in front of their parts of the mural," Cervantes said she oversaw the project and that it was made possible through a grant, donations and volunteer work from dozens of artists.
"There was probably a couple of thousand hours put into it," Cervantes said many of the artists have since died and that the mural has been tagged before but nothing this large.
"I was just stunned," said Cervantes, "We have gone a couple of times and taken the graffiti off it at our own expense and time, but this was just too much."
There is a homeless encampment frequently at the mural. On the day KTVU shot video at the scene, the encampment lined the length of the mural. Restoration work would have to wait until after those who are camped out are moved to an alternate location our housed in shelter.
Cervantes said the mural was a gift to the community and it'll need its help to restore it.
"This is a cultural asset to this neighborhood. It tells our story. It tells the story of when I was coming of age being gay and to see this in this state is really sad," said Richards, "This is our history. I really hope that we can be better stewards in the future."
Precita Eyes Muralists estimated that it could cost $50,000 to repair and restore the mural.
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