A well-known mural at 25th and Arkansas is being replaced, a decision that's generated praise in the neighborhood but anguish from the late artist's son and anger online.
For the past 12 years, a colorful Dia de los Muertos mural has presided over the north Wichita intersection.
The mural was commissioned by Janiece Baum-Dixon in 2006, both as a tribute to her late father and as an educational piece about the traditional Mexican holiday.
Baum-Dixon worked with Kathy Hull, a visual resources coordinator at Wichita State’s art school, to design the Day of the Dead-themed art.
The mural has not aged well, and parts of it are “flaking off bad,” according to Baum-Dixon.
“It’s like a bad nail polish job, really,” she said. “Parts of it are good — the ones in the shade — but the main part is really coming down.”
After consulting with neighbors, Baum-Dixon has decided to replace it with a new mural honoring Latina women and their contributions to the community.
The decision was ill-timed for Ram Hull.
Kathy Hull, his mother – and the primary artist behind the Dia de los Muertos mural – died in March after being hit by a car on the Wichita State campus.
Ram Hull is currently organizing an exhibition of his mother’s work at Wichita State, after which he will be “desperately trying to find a new home for these beautiful pieces,” as they are large and cannot go into storage.
So the mural decision, in addition to the art show, compounded to create a painful situation, he said.
“I don’t want to see her legacy destroyed so soon after her death,” Ram Hull said last week, tearfully.
A Facebook post by Ram Hull last week disparaging the decision had been shared more than 260 times as of Tuesday.
Since the post, Baum-Dixon said she's received "a couple" of death threats. Hull said that reaction is “disgusting” and not in keeping with either his or his mother’s wishes.
Baum-Dixon said she has not taken the transition lightly. She has relinquished the rights to the Dia de los Muertos artwork and said the Hull estate can reproduce it as they wish.
The Los Angeles-based artist who will paint the new mural has offered to incorporate some sort of nod to Hull and the previous mural in the new design, she said.
“It’s tearing my heart out, too,” she said, emphasizing the mural was partially a memorial to her father.
“But at that particular corner I think people are looking for new energy, especially in the North End.”
The mural was painted well before murals became en vogue in Wichita, and over the years it has been subject to vandalism. The ICT Army of Artists, Villa Boxing Club and various local artists have helped maintain the mural over the years.
It’s one of many colorful murals in Wichita’s North End neighborhood, home to a high concentration of Latino and Southeast Asian Wichitans.
Baum-Dixon said she has been working on the new design with the artist, whom she would only identify as “Daniel.”
It will be spray-painted onto the building, which should ensure it will last longer in the Kansas elements.
She’s received praise for the idea — portraying a Latina woman’s journey through life — from many in the neighborhood, she said.
“I’d like to create some positive change … and honor the women,” she said. “These women are … invisible, unheard, objectified a lot of times.
“I’d like to do something to empower the Latina females in the community.”
As for the old mural, Ram Hull said he’s looking for a place to reproduce it in Wichita. His mother likely would have enjoyed the new mural, she said.
“It’s obvious this is a beloved mural and has been a part of so many people’s lives,” he said. “It’s still meaningful to a lot of people, and I’m hoping we can save that.”
Expect the new mural by year’s end.