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Graffiti on Rail Arts District Mural

Napa Valley Wine Train employee Billy Dean Logan removes graffiti from the Felipe Pantone mural, "Chromadynamica for Napa" near the Wine Train railroad tracks in the Rail Arts District on Friday afternoon.

Graffiti painters are still making their presence known along the Napa Valley Vine Trail’s urban sections in central Napa. But local artists and advocates say the arrival of murals seem to be keeping away the most flagrant tagging incidents – with occasional exceptions.

The Vine Trail’s array of outdoor artwork is entering its second year, with large-scale paintings appearing beside the bicycling and pedestrian route. The backs of various buildings – and even the fence of the city’s corporation yard – have become canvases for artists from Poland, Argentina and Napa itself, adding visual zest to what had been one of the trail’s most gritty industrial stretches.

But while such murals may be the foundation of a hoped-for district filled with public art, the majority of still-unadorned buildings remain a vandalism target, city officials reported.

The murals have not been exempt from attack. In mid-January, a major work by professional muralist Felipe Pantone, “Chromadynamica for Napa,” was tagged.

The mural had been installed with a coating that makes tagging easier to clean off. Napa Valley Wine Train, a sponsor of the Rail Arts District, dispatched a worker to remove the spray paint. In short order, the mural was restored to near pristine-condition.

Napa’s Parks and Recreation Department continues to devote an average of three hours a week removing spray-paint vandalism visible from the Vine Trail, according to parks manager Dave Perazzo. Such tagging included a spike in activity during November, he added, when graffiti was left on the studio building of the local artist Mikey Kelly – and even on the art installation he created nearby on the fence of the city corporation yard. Another tagging incident marked Felipe Pantone’s “Chromadynamica for Napa,” another Vine Trail installation at the back of the Matthews Mattress showroom.

Last week, Perazzo reported, Napa’s newly hired park rangers, who help oversee city recreation spaces, began once-a-week evening patrols of the Vine Trail to discourage graffiti sprayers – both in and out of the 1.7-mile pathway section reserved for a future Rail Arts District. Any fresh tagging is removed by members of The Father’s House church in Napa.

Vine Trail Graffiti

There has been a marked increase in graffiti along the Napa Valley Vine Trail through the Rail Arts District, with at least one mural having been vandalized in recent weeks.

The areas being watched by park rangers include the sites of large-scale artworks that began debuting in early 2017, the start of a beautification effort for the Vine Trail’s more industrial stretches. Among the installations are “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” on the Napa Valley Register building, by the Polish artists Natalia Rak and Bezt; Pantone’s abstract “Chromadynamica”; and Cinta Vidal’s “Floating Napa” near the back of NAPA Auto Parts.

The latest addition to the hoped-for linear gallery is “Begin and Continue,” which Kelly unveiled on the fencing of the city corporation yard at Jackson Street. Replacing standard green plastic on a 710-foot-long fence section are multicolored patterns of crisscrossing strips, angled against one another using a coding system that assigns angle numbers to the letters of uplifting words like “active,” “caring” and “home.” Metal silhouettes depict the joggers, cyclists, dogs and others frequenting the pathway.

Kelly’s creation, while celebrating the best in Napa residents, is – like the murals just south on the trail – designed to withstand the worst behavior. Like those paintings, “Begin and Continue” is finished with a coating designed to resist spray paint and allow it to be cleaned off without damaging the underlying art.

That feature was tested on Nov. 20, barely a week before Kelly’s installation debuted, when, he recalled, someone left graffiti on the art piece. The defacement was cleaned and removed in time for “Begin and Continue” to receive its first public showing on the 28th.

“I think the public art along the Vine Trail is (a case of) people doing good things for the city of Napa, and I hope people respect that, including the taggers, to not deface that work,” he said last week. “Painting over someone’s artwork is very different from tagging a building.”

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.