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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / VENTURA

Work on Mural Begins Despite Owner's Threat

June 26, 1998|STEVE CHAWKINS

The Ventura artist who won a federal case over her damaged mural started to repaint it Thursday as the man who damaged it vowed to do so again.

Muralist M.B. Hanrahan pulled up at Avenue Liquor on Thursday morning with ladders, chalk, measuring tapes, paints, several helpers, and an order from U.S. District Judge Richard A. Paez.

The court document allows her to repaint the portion of an anti-drug, anti-tobacco, anti-alcohol mural that had been whitewashed by the liquor store owners, Tony Touma and Kamil Yousef.

But Touma had a different idea. When he spotted Hanrahan and her entourage, he knocked down one of her ladders and charged at Steve Aguilar, a friend of Hanrahan's who was videotaping the scene. Then he dashed into his store for a broom and swiped at some of the chalk grid markings Hanrahan had laid down as aids in re-creating the work on the south wall.

The episode passed swiftly. But Touma said he intends to paint over the new work, although he would not say when. He said Hanrahan should have waited until he appeals the federal court ruling, which was issued earlier this month.

"The case is not over," he said.

Hanrahan, a Ventura College instructor who has done numerous murals throughout Ventura County and Los Angeles, said she returned "because there was no reason to wait. If I get a court ruling and don't do anything about it, then what does that say?"

Hanrahan said she did not want to betray the nearly 300 residents of the Avenue neighborhood who helped paint the mural in 1994. The work was commissioned by a county alcohol and drug program and subsequently was chosen for a display of community art at the U.S. House of Representatives.

The controversy started last summer, shortly after Avenue Liquor was sold to Touma and Yousef. Fearing it was bad for business, Touma painted over about one-third of the 72-foot-long piece.

He contends he had permission to do so from the building's owner, Ray Ramirez. However, Ramirez said he never gave such permission.

Hanrahan sued the store's owners under a 1990 federal law intended to protect muralists. She was awarded nearly $50,000 and the right to restore the damaged mural without interference.

By late Thursday afternoon, Hanrahan and her helpers had painted the outlines of the figures and words in the destroyed section, including "It's not cool to target kids."

She said she hopes to get some of the young people who worked on the first mural to return for painting next week.

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