Artist Danny Mega in front of his repaired mural at Brownie’s Market. | Credit: Ryan P. Cruz

Just over a week ago, a mural depicting two different-colored hands interlocked and featuring a famous Nelson Mandela quote about the nature of love versus hate — painted in 2020 by artist and Santa Barbara native Danny Meza on the wall outside Brownie’s Market on De la Vina Street — was scrawled over with some hastily applied graffiti.

While the graffiti itself wasn’t that surprising, the incident caused a stir on social media, where some criticized painting over a mural that represented equality for all, with white spray paint scribbled directly over Mandela’s words, which read: ”No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or their background, or their religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Meza, the mural’s original artist, who recently moved out of his hometown Santa Barbara to San Diego to be a full-time tattoo artist, said he received several messages letting him know that the wall had been hit. He happened to be on a trip back home over the weekend, and said it was no problem to retouch the mural. About 30 minutes and a few coats of paint later, he said, the mural was good as new.

“Murals get tagged on all the time, no matter what the subject is,” Meza said. “There could be tons of reasons: They don’t like the mural, sometimes they just want to vandalize for the sake of it, or sometimes they just don’t like the artist that actually did it.”

He shrugged off the vandalism, saying he understands what it’s like to be young and without a place to practice art, but he hopes the incident can be used to open up a discussion about including more art in public spaces. If the city provided a wall where they encouraged locals to come and add their own art legally, for instance, it could help prevent graffiti elsewhere, and eventually may be a way to find the city’s next big street artist.

“Not everyone has a backyard where they can practice,” he said, adding that many youth that start out experimenting with graffiti are criminalized and put through the system at an early age. A public space to practice would help get rid of that stigma, Meza said, while also sticking true to the original intention of the mural: “It’s about equality for everyone.”

City councilmember Oscar Gutierrez, who was raised in and represents Santa Barbara’s Westside district, said that he took it “a little personally” to see the mural defaced in the neighborhood he grew up in. “There’s certain pieces you just don’t tag over, and this is one of them.”  

He presented Meza with a city pin for his work, and said he was looking forward to leading discussions with the city about finding a public place for people to do art. “We’ve gotta find an outlet for them to be able to get their expressions out,” Gutierrez said.

He thanked Meza, who also received a community donation to help pay for paint and supplies. “I just want to thank [Danny] on behalf of the city, and the Westside specifically, and on behalf of all the people in the community that are really grateful for him and his beautiful art,” Gutierrez said.

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez gives artist Danny Meza a city pin in gratitude. | Credit: Ryan P. Cruz


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.