Plywood Artisans Underappreciated 

Thanks for a balanced article by Matt Stangel ("Right of Way," Arts & Culgure, April 23) on one of the city's talented public artists. While Richmond artist Hope's public works may be considered illegal, I'd like to thank him for reconsidering Richmond's "unused and forgotten things," as Stangel writes. Not all of us prefer the scenery of empty windows and blank plywood walls on neglected or unoccupied downtown buildings. (Some Richmonders will recall the enormous squid and whale mural that filled the windows of the William Byrd Hotel on Broad Street some years ago, to the delight of us kids.)

Hope's exuberant work does just what his name suggests, at least to this Richmonder: It inspires a weary public to keep the faith and to enjoy urban art as a sign of an alive and engaged community. In determining whether penalizing the artist would be appropriate, it would seem important to differentiate more carefully between graffiti vandalism and anonymous painterly additions to our downtown streetscape. Perhaps instead of fining this artist $1.8 million for posting his optimistic images, as the Clean City Commission suggests, the city ought to offer him an award for good stewardship.

K. Giles Harnsberger

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