Money secured to restore graffitied 'It's Up to Us' mural in Cleveland

Updated: Mar. 1, 2018 at 6:22 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (CNN) - The "It's Up to Us" mural at the corner of West 25th Street and Clark Avenue stretches an entire city block.

Master muralist and Cleveland-native John Rivera-Resto brought the mural to life. It was a two year process that was finished in 2014.

"It's a narrative mural- social context," Rivera-Resto said. "The social issues in the mural have political repercussions. This of course, has generated a lot of interest in the community."

The mural includes a diverse group of people in community settings and merges social, political and economic stories.

"There's over 100 connections in this mural," Rivera-Resto said.

Last November, someone damaged the nearly 2,000-square-foot mural with graffiti. A police report was filed with the Cleveland Police Department. It remains a mystery who did the damage.

Rivera-Resto's career spans more than four decades. He has more than 250 murals around the world. Rivera-Resto said this is the first time his work has come under attack.

"It makes me sad, because they're not insulting me as an artist. They're insulting the community who has taken possession of this piece," Rivera-Resto said.

Keisha Gonzales is the managing director of the Metro West Community Organization. She said an enormous number of residents and stakeholders had an input in the design and installation of the mural.

"It was, in short, a slap in the face to our community," said Keisha Gonzales, managing director of the Metro West Community Organization.

"It is critical that we restore it and reclaim it, because at the end of the day, this is our story," Gonzales said. "And if we don't take any action, then no one's going to be able to appreciate it."

A crowdfunding campaign raised about $1,000 for restoration work. Gonzales said the total cost of the work will total about $20,000. Organizers would also like to install environmentally-friendly lights and surveillance cameras.

"MetroHealth System is going to kick in about 90 percent of the cost to restore the mural, as well as contributions from Sherwin Williams to cover the expenses for the paint," Gonzales said.

Repairing the damage will be a labor-intensive task. The plan calls for starting work when the weather gets warmer and drier. Rivera-Resto said the damaged area, a third of the mural, will have to be stripped and repainted layer-by-layer.

A dedication to his craft and community is bringing Rivera-Resto back to the brick canvass. Although he's returning, he wishes it wasn't the case.

"Because it's like repeating the first act," Rivera-Resto said. "Sometimes you cannot build back that crescendo."

He's determined to right a wrong.

"I'm going to be in trouble if I don't come back. I have gotten so many emails, calls and requests from Cleveland... from the states. I didn't realize people in Europe has seen and read about this."

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