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Effort to Restore Decades-Old Anti-Gentrification Mural Gains Steam

 The mural was painted by Arnold Belkin, a Canadian artist who studied in Mexico.
Against Domestic Colonialism Mural
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HELL'S KITCHEN — A mural on West 45th Street might soon give shape to West Siders' resistance to "big business" high-rise development — just as it did more than 40 years ago.

Neighbors have been trying to restore "Against Domestic Colonialism," painted in 1972 on a building facing Mathews-Palmer Playground, for years.

The fading mural depicts a diverse group of people against the city skyline. One figure holds flowers, and another holds the message, “We the people demand control of our communities.”

After years of stops and starts, scaffolding could rise as early as Thursday to begin renovation work, according to neighborhood organizer Will Rogers.

"It's like climbing Mount Everest, the rebirth of this thing," Rogers said. "And it kind of comes from the total grassroots."

The now-inactive group Rescue Public Murals attempted to spearhead the restoration and originally hoped to have it done by 2012, DNAinfo reported at the time. But that effort, particularly the attempt to raise $150,000 for the restoration, fell apart.

"What happened was, we did not raise the money," said Jane Weissman from Rescue Public Murals.

The West 45th-46th Street Block Association, where Rogers leads a Mural Committee, has now taken on the task. The mural nonprofit Beautify Earth will help to coordinate the effort, as Chelsea Now previously reported. The paint for the new version will be donated by the Golden paint company, according to Rogers.

Much of the mural’s original anti-gentrification message is now faded and covered over, but in the original, a bulldozer blazes a trail into a group of protesters, a clump of gleaming high-rises in its wake.  A sign reading “The neighborhood is for the people, not big business,” and the figure holding it are no longer visible.

Weissman, who is still involved in the work on the mural, said that because of the condition of the wall the mural was painted on, the "restoration" will actually be a full "replication." The wall will be replaced and the mural fully repainted.

"Either way, the original is going to be gone, period," she said. 

"Because it is a completely new rendering, that is why there is a great deal of concern as to how it will be done...The artists who are doing it have to got to fully understand the style and the artistic intentions of the original artist," Weissman said.