Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

"Vandals" paint over mural painted over Poet's Alley

8. July 2008 • Murph
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Former mural, some rights reserved by Flickr user viscousplatypus under a Creative Commons license

The Ann Arbor News reports that large parts of the mural “Infinite Possibilities”, in the alley just west of the Michigan Theater, were painted over with white paint Sunday night. (A part of the mural is shown at right, under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user viscousplatypus.)

While various people quoted in the article call the whitewashing “disgusting”, or, “not a good thing”, the News quotes the mural’s artist, Katherine Tombeau Cost, as saying that she never expected her art to last forever, and that she hopes the next artist finds a good use for her old venue.

Cost’s comments are appropriate to the history of the alley – completed in 1999, her mural covered over the alley’s previous life as a community canvas known (to this author) as Poet’s Alley.



  1. To provide full disclosure on my bias here, I remember being rather dismayed when the mural was installed in 1999. Don’t misunderstand – I liked it as a mural.

    But the article quotes people as saying, about the mural, that it “was a source of pride, a place he could take out-of-towners to get a glimpse of the fabric of the community where he lives”, and, “This is a piece of artwork that has been part of the community for a long time,” and, “It really turned into an artistic representation, of sorts, of urban vitality in Ann Arbor.”

    All of those things seemed more true to me of the alley’s former decor than of the mural, which felt to me like an attempt to wipe out truly public, participatory art with “official art”. Perhaps I’m being overly nostalgic about The Way Things Used To Be – but I suppose wouldn’t be the first on this site to do so.

    In the meantime, I would like to say that I very much appreciate Ms. Cost’s comments on this, and I appreciate her mural more for having heard her declare a recognition of public art as transitory, and her willingness to have put her work into it with that recognition.


       —Murph.    Jul. 8 '08 - 09:49PM    #
  2. I guess I just don’t understand why someone would paint over it. Of all the things to do, I just never thought that someone would do this.

    Usually, the graffiti that I see are the “fresh” and “chu” tags that show up all over and in the most interesting places.


       —TeacherPatti    Jul. 8 '08 - 09:58PM    #
  3. I lived in A2 for almost 8 years and had NO idea that this was a public art piece. Huh. I actually think the new art on top of it is pretty interesting.

    Things change.


       —Balt-O-Matt    Jul. 9 '08 - 02:26PM    #