SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KTVU) - The arts community is rallying against an act of vandalism to a public mural in Santa Rosa.
The vandalism shocked both the artists and neighbors, to find the wall-sized portraits of three women covered over with paint.
But now it appears the mural will come back better, possibly bigger, than before.
"It's like this person is trying to communicate with us," said artist Joshua Lawyer, looking at the white paint obliterating his work.
Lawyer and his wife MJ Lindo-Lawyer, with another artist friend, spent a few weeks in January creating the three-panel mural.
The donated their time and supplies, dodging rain and darkness, painting after their day jobs.
"We painted sometimes at night using car lights when we had to," said Lawyer.
They were happy to bring color and vibrancy to the neighborhood they live in.
"This is kind of a run-down area, so making it look better is a positive thing," added Lawyer.
Santa Rosa Avenue near downtown is an area in transition, and the murals are on two small buildings on a former car lot that will be redevloped as affordable housing.
"When I saw it I was very near tears, but then I kind of calmed down," said Lindo-Lawyer, noting a neighbor's security video shows a flash of white about 9 pm on May 12, but too far away to see anyone.
A police report has been filed.
"Obviously whoever it was, they're upset or wanted to make some sort of statement, but I don't know why someone would do it," said Lindo-Lawyer.
The vandalism was spotted the next day by the arts advocate who organized the mural project.
"It just feels really aggressive," said Spring Maxfield, founder of Santa Rosa Urban Arts Partnership. Maxfield believes if a disgruntled neighbor was responsible, he would have been neater, and painted the images over with a roller brush.
"And with a tagger, there's a lot of ego involved and they would have left their own mark," said Maxfield, "so I think this is just somebody who's really angry at public art." If so, it has backfired:
Artists and art-lovers have donated more than $3,000 so far to restore the mural, and some have volunteered to add their own creations to it.
On the GoFundMe page, many supporters express outraged that the multi-cultural image - three women of different races - was ruined.
"Childish behavior that is wrong, it is really wrong," said Mike Kostakis, owner of Mike's Import and Engines, an auto repair shop directly across the street from the murals.
He watched them take form, and admired them, and can't imagine a motive for defacing them.
"It almost looks personal, but on the other hand, there could be a million reasons why somebody did that," said Kostakis
The artists say they were demoralized at first, but inspired now, by the support emerging for them, and public art in the community.
"You don't just want to quit on this because one person didn't like it," declared Josh Lawyer. "We're really excited about re-doing it," said Lindo-Lawyer, "and we're determined to see more good artwork for people to enjoy."
Any donated funds left-over will support other public art projects in Santa Rosa, shepherded by SRUrbanarts.org.