LITTLE ITALY — Neighbors in Little Italy woke just days before Christmas to find a red big lump of coal on their block — in the form of a Grinch who painted over what had been a festive holiday mural on Mulberry Street.
Little Italy Merchants' Association President Ralph Tramontana said he and others have been working together to spruce up empty storefronts with family-friendly murals like the "Christmasaurus" piece Philadelphia street artist Nose Go painted on a security gate at 118 Mulberry St.
But the paint had hardly dried when an unhappy neighbor apparently defaced the mural, which now appears as a bright splotch of red near the border of Chinatown.
"The mural went up on December 15, and by December 18 it was painted over," Tramontana said. "You could tell it was private work, because he just painted over the picture itself and he didn’t paint over the whole gate."
Attempts to reach the building's owner were unsuccessful, but neighbors said its ground floor has sat vacant behind the roll-down gate for some time. Tramontana said he secured permission from the owner before greenlighting the mural, part of a larger project to bring street art into the neighborhood.
"It's upsetting because the kids were liking it — little kids were taking pictures with it," added Tramontana, who owns Sambuca's Cafe just down the street. "We have 10 to 12 more pieces all over Mulberry Street, and not one of them has been touched."
Art-lovers pointed to one vocal tenant who they say opposed the holiday paintings as the culprit.
"We don’t even know if he didn’t like the piece of art per se, he just didn’t like the whole thing," said Wayne Rada, who recruited the artist to paint the mural, as well as others for similar pieces. "He's the kind of guy that your football lands in his yard and it's never to be returned. "
Rada said vandalism was especially disheartening for artist Nose Go, who volunteered his time to create what was always intended to be a temporary installation.
"I found out from a close friend a few days after the completion of the mural," the artist said in an email. "The mural was supposed to be a fun image of a Christmas themed character, just to make the locals and daily commuters smile."
As for Tramontana and Rada, they say they intend to continue what they started this fall, with or without the support of certain neighbors.
"The one guy who got the shaft in all this was Nose Go, the artist he covered up — he rode the bus from Philly [to paint the mural]," Rada said. "Grinch really does sum it up."