Vandals deface mural at historic Blackwell School

By Tuesday, a tarp covering the mural was also defaced. Photo by Maisie Crow

PRESIDIO COUNTY — The mural at Blackwell School Park was vandalized with lewd graffiti over the weekend.

Marfa police responded to the scene on Monday morning, after authorities received a call about the vandalism.

The spray-paint graffiti includes male genitals, the letters “B” and “WB,” the words “LEAVE” and “U SUCK” and “a drawing of what looked like a teepee,” according to an incident report from the Marfa Police Department. At press time, no arrests have been made.

Police learned about the vandalism from Gretel Enck, president of the Blackwell School Alliance, a volunteer group that works to preserve and commemorate the Blackwell School. Enck told police that she’d returned from a trip to learn that the school’s mural had been vandalized.

Enck had learned about the vandalism from Ann Marie Nafziger, the former Marfa mayor who lives near the park, according to an incident report from the Marfa Police Department. The obscene imagery was covered up with a tarp.

When Enck went to check on the mural Tuesday afternoon, she learned the tarp had also been vandalized. “Why cover art?” read a new graffitied message in the same pink and gold spray paint.

Enck called police, who were aware of the latest vandalism, she said. The Marfa Police Department confirmed Tuesday evening that they were aware of this latest incident.

In an interview, Enck said she hoped to see the mural restored in the next couple weeks. She was not happy about graffiti but was also not surprised.

“Unfortunately, the way some people express their opinions is through vandalism and graffiti,” Enck said. She saw the vandalism as a sign that someone in Marfa was hurting — and hoped it could spark dialogue. “When your town is getting national coverage, and you don’t see yourself in that coverage, what does that do to your sense of community?” she said, reflecting on the sometimes stark divides in Marfa.

Enck was also disturbed by the “LEAVE” message, which she worried could have racial or bigoted undertones.

“If it happens again, we’ll just keep repainting it, because that’s the message we want to send,” she added. Since the Blackwell School Park is the only playground on the Marfa’s south side, she stressed it is important for the park to be a “welcoming and safe space for families and kids.”

Before the vandalism, the mural included a desert scene and the message “Welcome friends and neighbors to the Blackwell School,” in English and Spanish. The mural was completed last summer by Sam Watts, an art teacher at the school, and Brenden Cicoria, an employee at Ballroom Marfa. Marfa schoolkids also contributed during a party last April.

In an interview Tuesday, Watts said that he and Cicoria plan to restore the mural. He described the vandalism as a “disappointing gesture” that “creates work for people that already do so much for the community.”

“It was made to be a gesture of community,” he said of the mural. “It’s an odd choice of things to vandalize.”