The Circuit Arcade Bar’s Mural Whitewashed Days After Going Up

by | Feb 23, 2018 | COMMUNITY

Wednesday in Scott’s Addition, a new mural commissioned by The Circuit Arcade Bar on the side of a neighboring building was whitewashed overnight. The mural was a massive explosion of 80s and 90s art and iconography, from C3PO playing a vintage game to the female robot from Terminator 3, and most notably, a grinning image of a young Will Smith reprising his infamous role as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Photo Credit: @thenightowl

The mural, painted by local artist Mickael Broth, was completed Sunday and painted over by Wednesday, sparking outrage on various social media platforms, including one colorful Reddit thread. The Circuit marketing manager Justin Cole said he was not expecting such an explosive reaction from the community. Though theories and conspiracies ran rampant, the full story remained largely unclear.

Photo Credit: @thenightowl

Cole said he woke up to a call from his mom telling him that the mural was on the news. He was barraged by Facebook messages from friends he hadn’t heard from in years asking what had happened, “Everyone’s coming out of the woodwork to ask me what’s going on,” he said.  

Photo Credit: Sarah Honosky

According to Cole and The Circuit owner Robert (who asked that we leave out his last name), The Circuit was given permission to commission a mural on a wall adjacent to their vintage arcade and bar at 3105 W.Leigh St. by the building’s landlord in October.

“It wasn’t until he {Broth} was basically 75 percent done, that someone–we didn’t know who at this point in the story because we weren’t there, but walked up to the artist and said, ‘what are you doing?’ and he said ‘I’m painting this wall,’ and they said ‘you don’t have permission to do this’,” said Cole.

Photo Credit: @thenightowl

That’s when The Circuit owner began to get texts and complaints from the tenant of the building. “After it gets painted he sends a text saying ‘[the mural] is hideous, I’m going to cover this up, this is ridiculous’,” said the owner. “Supposedly, he wants to put cohesive artwork around the whole building. I wish he would have told me this before I got approval, and before I spent thousands of dollars.”

The tenant in 3103 who had complaints about The Circuit’s mural is Richmond restaurateur Brandon Pearson, co-owner of Sabai and Aloi, a Thai food truck. Aloi was often parked in the same lot as the building, which houses Pearson’s furniture company, Pearson Furnishings according to a Richmond BizSense article. 

Photo Credit: Sarah Honosky

“I disagree with the decision,” said Cole. “But I don’t dislike the individual because of the decision they made.”

In what seemed to be a miscommunication, Pearson later said he had also obtained permission from the landlord to paint a mural on the wall. “I don’t know what that conversation was, but somewhere in that conversation the landlord did, I guess, end up promising the same thing he promised us,” said Cole.

The Circuit owner said he tried to contact the landlord of the building housing both 3103 and 3105 W Leigh St., which WTVR reports has been occupied by Pearson for 4 years, to clear up the confusion. He said he offered to pay rent per month for the wall and the mural. “He never got back to me, and all of sudden, overnight, somebody paints the wall over,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to get my attorney involved yet.”

Cole said that the mural had the potential to become a staple of the neighborhood. The community is noticeably frustrated by the unauthorized removal of the artwork, many of the service staff at The Circuit among them.

Photo Credit: @thenightowl

“Richmond is very proud of their art and their artists,” said Cole. “Everyone around here, especially, really likes to cherish the artists and keep Richmond on the map as a centralized art enthusiast type of city. I think that’s why people are a little upset about it…Also for a mural to go up and then come right back down, there’s some suspicion when you see that happen when you’re an outside person.”

Broth said he was not notified when the mural would be painted over, but declined to get involved.  “All I know for sure is that I was commissioned by The Circuit to paint the mural. I did my job and was paid on schedule. A few days after the mural was finished, someone painted the wall white,” said Broth.

Though according to one Instagram post, Broth caught word of the intention to remove the mural before it happened, and after the fact he took the development in stride. “Well, that didn’t last long.”

In a brief Facebook post memorializing the mural, The Circuit said “Welp, it was fun while it lasted…” followed by a video documenting the transformation from a building-length mural to a whitewashed wall.  

Efforts to reach Aloi for comment were unsuccessful.

This story has been updated to reflect additional reporting which determined that Pearson is the tenant of the building which was painted on; we missed that he had a lease to the space in our original report.

Photos By: @thenightowl and Sarah Honosky

Sarah Honosky

Sarah Honosky

Sarah Honosky is a field reporter for RVA Mag and GayRVA. She likes 90's cult classic television, biking, and writing about Richmond arts and culture.

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