Recently painted over, the murals contained a variety of famous personalities. Most were easier to figure out. Some had an indigenous flavor (Gen. Robert E. Lee, Maggie Walker). Some were connected to the area by degrees (Abe Lincoln, Salvador Dali). Others were more of a stretch (Bruce Lee, Freddie Mercury, Afrika Bambaataa). The latter, Bateman recalls, "was holding hands with Johnny Cash."
The building at 709 W. Broad St. was owned by Dale G. Forrest when the murals were painted by graffiti artists in 1999. Forrest OK'd the work, and even rented a lift truck so the artists, mostly Virginia Commonwealth University students, could reach the high spots. He sold the building in November to Clachan Properties, a local apartment rental firm. The company painted over the mural a few months ago, representatives say, to protect the aging brickwork.
Bateman, a former VCU art student and member of the all-white hip-hop group Luggage, says that around 10 artists contributed to the wall. But they're reticent to come forward. Some are still involved with similar activities. Though spray painting the side of this particular building was legal, most of the time it isn't.
Bateman insists he's no longer involved with that kind of thing. When asked about the loss, he remains nonchalant: "It was kind of cool that people were into it or whatever. Personally, I was kind of tired of looking at it." Wayne Melton
Letters to the editor may be sent to: email@example.com