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Some Asshole Painted Over the Kurt Vile Mural

Some arsehole painted over the ESPO mural in Philadelphia.

Photo by Najeeb Sheikh

In the cosmic list of people out there being chill, Kurt Vile is among the chillest. He makes sweet music that sounds like it's been around forever but also totally new. He's a cool dad. Et cetera.

This fucking guy in Kurt Vile's hometown of Philadelphia, however, is among the least chill of all time. Yesterday morning, anonymous Exhibit A of Supreme Unchillness was seen painting over the Stephen Powers (also known as ESPO) mural in Philadelphia that forms the backdrop for the cover of Kurt Vile's most recent album, Wakin' on a Pretty Daze and continues to edify the good people of Philadelphia with lyrical snippets from the album. Or, rather, did edify the people of Philadelphia. Now it's just a bunch of white blobs.


The Unchill Anti-Michaelangelo was caught on camera, though, by local resident Najeeb Sheikh, a.k.a. @dasheikee on Instagram, who took the above photo, as well as this portrait of painter in action:

"So this is the ignorant piece of shit that took it upon himself to buff the @steveespopowers Kurt Ville [sic] mural," Najeeb wrote in the caption. "When I asked if he knew it was a commissioned piece by a world renown artist he said he did and he didn't give a shit. He claimed it attracted graffiti to the neighborhood!"

As many people quickly pointed out on Twitter, the defacing of a legal mural in the name of removing it probably comes a lot closer to graffiti, but, to the incredibly unchill, this is probably a meaningless distinction.

"I think the big point here is that it’s really sad to lose a work of art," Jane Golden, executive director of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program, told Metro Philadelphia.

Don't get too sad, though. If Kurt were here, he'd tell you to take it with a grain of salt and relax, probably. Man, Kurt Vile is so chill. Let's all just be chill. Here's a video of the mural being painted set to "Wakin' on a Pretty Daze." Damn it's chill.

UPDATE: Kurt Vile posted a link to the Metro Philadelphia story on Facebook and commented: "Bummer of a day yesterday. The mural that was painted for the cover of Wakin' was defaced. We're all working on plans to have it redone and updated." Phew!


UPDATE 2: Local journalist Leah Kaufmann got a tip that the man behind the paint job was local DJ Lee Mayjahs. She reached out to him to find out the story. Here's their conversation:

Leah Kaufmann: I received a tip that you're the man who painted over the mural. Is that true?
Lee Mayjors: Yes, it was me. I'm so sorry. I got home and started doing research on my computer. I [couldn't] believe what I had done, and I wrote a letter to Kurt Vile apologizing. And I wrote a letter to the artist Espo apologizing, telling them that I would pay Espo to come down and repaint it. I also wrote a letter to the Mural Arts apologizing. Apparently it wasn’t official. Even though it wasn’t official, I’m sorry for everything I did. I would do whatever I could do to make it right. I really am sorry. I don’t know what I was doing. I literally lost my mind and took it out, which was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Was it premeditated? Did you just have white paint lying around? It’s 9 AM on a Saturday. What was going through your head?
I live in that neighborhood. I’ve lived there for 15 years. I’m always cleaning up the streets and alleyways. I don’t know…for some reason I feel like ever since that piece has been there it’s attracted more and more graffiti to that neighborhood. Every time I paint over illegal graffiti I was blaming it on it [the mural], and I didn’t realize the people in the neighborhood love it. I’ve never really sat and looked at it. I never did any research on it, and then I just snapped.


I feel like the neighborhood has been moving in a positive direction for so long, and I just thought that mural there was the cause of more illegal graffiti. I snapped and took it out on that and the guy [who] came and tried to stop me [Najeeb]. He was right in everything he said. I was in a state of mind where I was only seeing red and wasn’t even listening to what he was saying.

He mentioned that you got pretty aggressive with him when he tried to stop you. Are you planning on getting any help?
I have a friend from New York who is coming in to the city to talk to me tonight. I’m going to reach out to him [Najeeb] and apologize personally. It wasn’t my intention to intimidate. I was just seeing red and wouldn’t listen, and I don’t know what happened. I love art. I was a graffiti artist as a teenager, 20 years ago. I have friend who went to art school with Espo. I had no idea. I posted (as a comment) the apology I sent to Kurt Vile on phillymag today.

Did you post as yourself or anonymously?
I posted as “dumb buffer”

The real shocker is that you are a local artist. Do you see this having a negative impact on your work in the city?
I mean, probably. I was obviously not thinking. I didn’t think anything through and acted [on] false pretense. I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions. I’m sorry about that. I love Philadelphia, I love my neighborhood, and I love the arts. I’m a big supporter of the arts, and so for me to do something that offends all of these people is completely out of character for me. Anybody who knows me will tell you the exact same thing. I’m sorry about it.


Follow Kyle on Twitter - @KyleKramer

Leah Kaufmann is a journalist and blogger based in Philadelphia. She's on Twitter - @leahrkauffman


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