CLIFTON — The mural under a Garden State Parkway will be completely painted over per order the Turnpike Authority but the city manager hopes it can be painted elsewhere.

The mural, which originally depicted five Black and brown fists was painted with the approval of Clifton City Manager Dominick Villano by artist May Yuasa and friends. As work progressed on the mural titled "use your voice," complaints were made because by people who thought it was "politically motivated."

Yuasa agreed to change two of the fists into hands making a heart while two other fists became a handshake.

But Yuasa would not change one fist, a Black fist similar to that used by the movement for Black lives. Villano had the fist painted over, which drew criticism. The Turnpike Authority also received a handful of complaints and ordered the city to remove the mural.

"This for us has nothing to do with anything but we don't allow people to paint on our bridges. Usually people ask permission and they get denied. In this case no one even asked they just painted," Turnpike Authority Tom Feeney told New Jersey 101.5.

Feeney said the Turnpike Authority gets numerous requests to paint overpasses and bridges but the answer is always "no."

"We don't care what you're painting. You can't paint on our bridge," Feeney said.

What's the fuss?

That being said, Feeney said the pictures he saw of the mural show it was was well done.

"It had a super positive message and I don't understand what the fuss was about. For us the fuss was you're painting on our bridge and you're not allowed to do that," Feeney said.

Villiano told New Jersey 101.5 that the city will paint over the mural within the past 30 days. There have been other murals painted on Parkway overpasses that did not get any attention from anyone.

"This is the only mural that has received attention, primarily due to the content of the mural. In the past the city’s theme has been: children, flowers and butterflies, and have not dealt with this more complex issue," Villiano said.

Most of the other murals are on NJDOT property and he expects to get similar removal orders.

Mural under the Garden State Parkway at Allenwood Road in Clifton after being painted over (May Yuasa)

Can the Mural Be Saved?

The mural was painted onto the concrete and can't be saved, according to Villiano. He would like to see city property opened up for future murals including a re-do of this one. He plans to bring it up at the next City Council meeting on Wednesday for a preliminary discussion.

"It is my goal to assist the artist in painting this mural elsewhere, it is too beautiful to let is sit in the back pages of a history book, it needs to be displayed," Villiano said. "Although social media has painted me as a racist and a tyrant, I am a supporter of these programs, but unfortunately, I do not set policy in my capacity as a city manager."

Feeney is on board with the mural being repainted elsewhere.

"It's really well done and I hope they find an appropriate place for her to do that artwork because it's very nice," Feeney said.

Yuasa said she is not sure if she wants to repaint the mural but didn't have further comment.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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