Artist defends controversial mural after vandals strike

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – After a mural sparked a heated debate, an artist found himself trying to protect it from vandals and then from the county that commissioned him to do the work in the first place.

Artist Glen Strock is defending his work.

First, critics called for its removal, saying it glorified violence against native people. Then vandals struck, and KRQE News 13 went to the Santa Fe County Human Resource building on Friday to watch Strock repair the damage.

That’s when others arrived with the intention of altering the mural. They were workers with Santa Fe County.

The same entity that hired him to do the work, came with a power washer to clean part of it off.

The artist was creating the mural as part of the county’s Teen Court program, working with teens in trouble to help them find their voice and do something positive in the community.

“What section of the mural have they decided? Do you know?” Strock asked.

“The one with the horse and the guy and the sword,” a man responded.

The man described the characters central to the story Strock aims to share, the characters who are at the center of what, Strock says, is a misunderstanding.

The man on a horse is Governor Tomas Cachupin from the 18th century. A man of peace, as shown by the lowered sword and kind face, Strock said.

“I don’t see how taking County employees after a vandal comes and tries to cover the truth, to then decide autocratically to come and do what the vandals have done,” Strock said.

The County, responding only by email, said it wanted to clean the vandalism and re-evaluate the design.

While Strock said he is open to modifying the mural after a community discussion set for Monday, he did not think it was right to simply remove the mural entirely without first engaging in that conversation.

He physically blocked the mural. After seeing, a deputy get involved who happened to be in the area, Strock said he was prepared to be arrested in order to protect the mural.

After lobbying on the phone, Strock was told that crews would not remove the mural after all.

The artist said there will be a community meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Santa Fe Art Institute to discuss the mural.

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