3945 Bayshore Drive
NAPLES — An East Naples photography mural, designed to showcase the humanity of Southwest Florida, was crudely defaced early Sunday morning.
The mural, titled “A Face in the Crowd,” is a collection of more than 800 black-and-white photos of a diverse range of local faces posted together on the wall of a commercial building at 3945 Bayshore Drive.
Saturday night, vandals sprayed green and red paint over those faces, marking them with swastikas, profanity, and vulgar phrases and symbols.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the defacement as an act of criminal mischief. Two suspects were questioned on Monday, said Michelle Batten, a spokeswoman for the Collier Sheriff’s Office, but no arrests have been made.
Bayshore Gateway Triangle residents called the mural a symbol of their effort to revive their neighborhood through public art projects.
While the mural’s producer and community members were outraged the vandals trashed the faces of their neighbors, they also declared it rallying point for the community revival.
Naples photographer Michelle Tricca began the mural project in March, photographing everyone in the community willing to share their faces.
“A Face in the Crowd” was a way to involve the community members in an art project that Tricca calls a “large scale tribute to humanity.”
Brent Baker, a small business owner in the community, said people were encourage to “come as you are” to be photographed.
Young, old, black, white, Latino: their faces were emblazoned on a wallpaper material and pasted on the side of the building.
Tricca is part of a blossoming effort to make Bayshore Gateway Triangle a destination for publicly displayed art.
Bill Crane, who lives a block from the mural, said the neighborhood used to be a haven for crack and marijuana dealers. When artists like Tricca began beautifying the neighborhood with their work and law enforcement began to patrol the area more frequently, he said, the crime went down.
Baker, who works a vehicle detailing business, said Sunday’s defacement was not going to stop the neighborhood from growing.
“The community is trying to clean up, but you still have your scum,” Baker said, as he and two others with Reflections Detailing scrubbed the offending paint with mineral spirits.
With vulgar and racially-charged language and crudely-drawn obscene symbols, Baker called the skill of the vandals’ work “pretty elementary.”
A chemical scrubbing on Monday successfully removed the spray paint, but it also degraded some of the faces on the wall — a few beyond recognition.
Tricca still has all the photos on file, so an effort could be made to replace those photo cells.
The photographer learned of the vandalism Sunday morning from a Facebook message sent from a woman who posed for the mural.
Tricca said as soon as she read the words “I regret to inform you” her heart sank.
After viewing the vandalism on Sunday, she reported it to the Collier Sheriff’s Office. She also posted photos of her spoiled project on her Facebook page, Michelle Tricca Photography.
“Whoever did this,” she wrote defiantly, “whatever you were trying to prove, I hope you feel empowered.”
But Tricca’s anger seemed to give way some on Monday, as neighbors passed by to lend their support.
While Baker and others were cleaning the wall on the south side of the building, Tricca was on the north side, pasting new photos of human faces on an extension of the project.
Connect with Aaron Hale at /www.naplesnews.com/staff/aaron-hale