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Cable Company That Erased Obama Mural Looks for Replacement Artist

By Patrick Hedlund | November 22, 2010 6:41pm | Updated on November 23, 2010 6:29am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — The cable company that painted over a well-known neighborhood artist's mural of President Barack Obama wants to bring in another painter who will play by the rules.

RCN, which has been a tenant in a building at the corner of Avenue C and East 6th Street for the past decade, recently painted over the mural by graffiti artist Antonio "Chico" Garcia celebrating Obama's election. The mural had stood on the half-block-long property for more than two years.

A spokesman for the company said last week that RCN erased the mural because it was put up illegally — Garcia never got permission to paint his ode to the president on the building's wall.

Now, RCN wants to bring a new mural to the building, but it likely won't enlist Garcia, whose works grace dozens of walls and storefronts throughout the East Village and Lower East Side.

"I'd like to do it with somebody who really respects the fact that I pay the rent there," Tony Ontiveros, vice president and general manager of RCN in New York City, told DNAinfo.

Back in 2008, Ontiveros didn't seem to mind dealing with Garcia when it hired the artist to put up a mural promoting the cable company as a good neighbor.

"We know Chico and he's a terrific artist, and we've commissioned him twice to put artwork on our wall," Ontiveros said. "The problem we have with Chico is, allowing him to do that a few times and paying him to do that — he thought it was his canvas."

Garcia said that the reason he painted the Obama mural in that spot was because he felt slighted when a series of billboards were plastered over his initial painting for RCN.

"If you're going to disrespect me, I'm going to do the same thing," Garcia said. "I was pissed off about this, that they went over my work."

Ontiveros denied he made the decision to install the billboards, saying the building owner likely did it as a way to pull in additional revenue off the property.

The company has already reached out to local community groups to see who may be right for the new commission

One of those groups is the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which worked with Garcia to paint the Obama mural and bring out the vote.

Garcia warned that if RCN decides to use a lesser-known artist, the company runs the risk of having other taggers deface the wall because they don't respect the work of outside graffitists.

"Obviously they're going to waste their time doing it," he said. "It's not going to last long. I don't care if he has a [surveillance] camera, people will [tag] it anyways."