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Cable Company Paints Over Barack Obama Mural in the East Village

By Patrick Hedlund | November 18, 2010 6:44am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — A politically charged mural that for more than two years stretched for half a block along Avenue C was recently painted over by the property's tenant.

The mural — which featured a portrait of President Barack Obama with the words "America Made the Right Choice" — was one of many neighborhood works by celebrated street artist Antonio "Chico" Garcia.

The picture apparently didn't sit well with RCN, the cable-television company that rents the building at the corner of East 6th Street.

"The bottom line is the building had illegal graffiti on it and we cleaned it up — period," said an RCN spokesman, who confirmed that the entire piece was covered in blue paint last week.

The spokesman, who didn't want to give his name, explained that Garcia went rogue with the Obama mural, covering an earlier work RCN commissioned him to do that simply advertised the company. He added that RCN would never support a political message of any kind.

The Obama mural orignated in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election, when Garcia collaborated with the Lower East Side Girls Club as part of a get-out-the-vote effort.

The original mural said "America Make the Right Choice." The word "Make" was changed to "Made" after Obama won the presidency.

Lyn Pentecost, executive director of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which paid Garcia to do the original Avenue C mural but not the altered version, said the artist "editorialized."

"You never know whether he has permission or not — that's Chico," she added.

In addition to the depiction of Obama, the mural included a red "X" drawn through an image of a white-haired man looming over a globe and an oil derrick.

Garcia, who is originally from the Lower East Side but now lives in Florida, "was not aware that his painting was being erased until the day of and is quite upset about [it]," his wife Tanya said in an e-mail.

"The neighborhood is changing and the art is disappearing."

News of the Avenue C mural's erasure quickly traveled through local news sites, with many wondering what had happened to the piece, one of Garcia's most prominent in the area.

"It's all gone now," wrote the blogger behind Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.

"I don't know why it went or what will come next to this wall. Was it too political in the current climate? Too ragtag for the newcomers of Alphabet City? Maybe it's only temporary and Chico will do a new mural."

Pentecost said she doesn't see what the fuss is about, given the election happened two years ago.

"It doesn't sound to me like a big deal," she said. "It would be nice if they had commissioned him to do something new."

But the RCN spokesman quickly dismissed the idea that Garcia might return to work on the wall.

"We're not interested in doing business with him again," he said.