West End residents were shocked Tuesday afternoon as pictures began to circulate on Facebook of a popular community art installation being inadvertently torn down.
The project, CAPS for KIDS, was constructed in 2013 at the corner of Maryland Avenue and West Beech Street by local artist Lisa Be as a way to heal the community in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Children from across the city collected roughly 50,000 plastic bottle caps to be used in the project, which were then fastened to galvanized metal sheets and hung on the walls surrounding a parking lot on Maryland.
Dozens of residents took to Facebook to voice their outrage over the destruction of the approximately 440 square-foot mural, and City Manager Jack Schnirman also expressed his disappointment. The wall was demolished in keeping with a series of road repaving projects that the City Council approved at its Oct. 20 meeting to increase resiliency and mitigate flooding. However, city officials said that the contractor had been instructed to remove and fully secure the bottle cap mural prior to commencing the construction.
“It came to my attention that earlier today the wonderful, community-driven art project in the West End was actually removed by the contractor due to the work over there,” Schnirman said at Tuesday's council meeting. “This is very frustrating, it was a wonderful project that the council supported and gave a nice proclamation to, so that’s quite a bit disappointing.”
In a statement, the city said that inspectors were immediately sent to the site to stop work once officials were notified that the wall was being knocked down, and several city workers attempted to salvage what was left of the mural.
Officials said that they will now work with those involved in the project and children in Long Beach schools who collected and gathered the bottle caps, along with the newly formed Council for the Arts, to find out how to best display a recovered component of the project going forward. The Arts Council will also work to place a new community arts project in that area in the near feature, officials said.