sunnyFair, 23.0°

Pinckney PTO launches campaign to restore vandalized mural; district plans to install security camera

Pedestrians use the underground tunnel below Sixth Street connecting the Pinckney and Old West neighborhoods, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. The tunnel and parts of the mural that decorate its walls were vandalized with graffiti over the holiday break.

Just weeks after Pinckney Elementary School staff returned from winter break to find their school’s tunnel vandalized, parent volunteers are well on their way to restoring the defaced passageway and its colorful mural.

As of noon Friday, a crowdfunding campaign calling for donations to repair the mural had collected $785 of its $1,000 goal. The fundraiser, launched Jan. 16 by the Pinckney Parent-Teacher Organization, aims to cover costs related to covering and/or removing the graffiti tags inside the tunnel.

The school’s PTO was the leading group behind the 2013 restoration of the underpass, which had fallen into disrepair sometime after its construction in the 1950s. The tunnel, which connects the nearby Pinckney and Old West Lawrence neighborhoods and serves as a safe passageway for students crossing busy Sixth Street on their way to and from school, has since become a point of pride for Pinckney and the surrounding neighborhoods, Principal Kristi Hill said earlier this month.

“It’s so disappointing,” Hill told the Journal-World shortly after the vandalism occurred. “More than anything, I’m just disappointed that someone would do that.”

Among the defaced portions of the tunnel were metal mural panels created by young artists at Van Go Inc., commissioned at the price of $10,000 after years of PTO-led fundraising. The hope at the time was that public art might deter future vandals, according to a Journal-World article about the project’s 2013 unveiling.

Pinckney Elementary students walk through the tunnel beneath 6th Street on their way home from school Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Murals line both walls the length of the tunnel thanks to artists from Van Go, Inc. and help from the Pinckney PTO, the city of Lawrence, Lawrence Schools Foundation, OWL Association and the Pinckney Neighborhood Association.

Pinckney Elementary students walk through the tunnel beneath 6th Street on their way home from school Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Murals line both walls the length of the tunnel thanks to artists from Van Go, Inc. and help from the Pinckney PTO, the city of Lawrence, Lawrence Schools Foundation, OWL Association and the Pinckney Neighborhood Association. by Mike Yoder

As of this week, however, “the mural has been removed and is stored inside Pinckney School,” district spokeswoman Julie Boyle wrote in an email, relaying information from Hill. “PTO has purchased some kind of material to use for removing the graffiti, both on the mural and the walls in the tunnel.”

Parent volunteers are also “looking for someone to update the paint on the mural,” Boyle wrote, with plans to paint the walls once the weather warms up. A police report from the incident describes several graffiti tags bearing what appear to be the letters “SWAE” or "SWAW."

Part of the PTO’s crowdfunding campaign is helping guard the tunnel against future vandals, according to the “Help Protect the Pinckney Tunnel!” GoFundMe page. Boyle said district and city staff had been discussing the idea of installing a security camera well before the December incident, with the district recently agreeing to take on the project.

For now, she said, “our technology services staff are evaluating hardware for future installation.”

“We understand that there are few, if any, reliable ways to ensure that this type of damage can never happen again,” PTO members wrote in the tunnel’s GoFundMe page. “However, we believe that a clean tunnel, with beautiful artwork, is the most effective deterrent to crime, danger, and future vandalism.”

Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/help-protect-the-pinckney-tunnel.

Those interested in seeing the mural restored can also contribute to the Pinckney PTO’s “Really Big Sale” fundraiser, slated for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 17 in the school’s gym, 810 W. Sixth Street. Donation and drop-off opportunities include: Jan. 28 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Pinckney parking lot, or outside the school near the large storage containers (on the Mississippi Street side of Pinckney) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 10 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 16.

Full LJWorld.com site