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Richmond Artist Says He'll Replace Damaged Mural with Something Bigger and Better

Ashe Mural
City workers painted over a portrait of Arthur Ashe that had been vandalized with racist grafitti.

James Thornhill, also known as Sir James, has painted twenty murals around the city. He sees them as a way to bring color to neighborhoods where buildings are boarded up and as a way to educate young people and instill pride in the contributions African-Americans have made to the city.

“There was an old church in Richmond – a very historical church," he recalls. "I saw some kids skateboarding, so I got out of my car being bold, and I said, ‘You know this is historical property. I told them about it, and they were like, ‘Oh, Sir, we’re so wrong. We apologize. We just didn’t know.’”

So he was dismayed to learn that his mural honoring Arthur Ashe – a work that took three weeks to complete -- had been defaced. The city painted over it to hide the offensive language, and volunteers who worked on the original painting called to offer their help again.

“How do we move on? We’re going to do it again, and we’re going to do it bigger, and we’re going to do it better,” Thornhill says.

Richmond’s mayor has said those responsible for the crime and other like-minded, shameful and cowardly acts will be held accountable,” and police are asking for public assistance in finding the culprits.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.