Jerrol’s art wall gets caught in dispute
BY Patience Collier
BY Sarah Ruiz
A mural depicting Pacific Northwest culture on the wall behind Jerrol’s Bookstore was recently defaced with racist iconography. The symbols can be connected to the Aryan Nation, a Neo-Nazi group.
The creators of the mural, Josè Hernandez, a criminal law and sociology junior at Central and the artist of the design, and junior sociology and aviation major Victor Aguirre, painted the design May 2.
Hernandez said he has been doing visual art since he was very young, and has been working with digital art since last November.
Ink22 is Hernandez’s brand, one he is currently working to legitimize as an established business. The brand found interest on the social media site Instagram, and since, Hernandez has said interest in the brand has increased. Hernandez has also worked as the Observer graphic designer during the Spring 2014 quarter.
“We try to represent the Pacific Northwest, its people and the culture,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre claims he and Hernandez share similar ideology and work together to cement ideas.
“Honestly [Hernandez] is really the brains of it,” Aguirre said. “It was kind of an idea we had last year; we just started coming up with ideas.”
In addition to the Neo-Nazi symbols was the message “This is what’s wrong with society,” and a message criticizing the design for being an ad. The additions were signed “ELS.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be an ad,” Hernandez said. “It was just my art.”
Rolf Williams, owner of Jerrol’s, had contacted Hernandez earlier this year to ask about selling his designs on apparel in the store. Prior to the offer Hernandez had sold his apparel on his website.
The mural, which features a black-and-white design of a Native American with the city skyline behind used in place of the face of a coin, was partially covered by a symbol used by Neo-Nazi groups. Originally, the design only was the man and the Seattle skyline, with “Know Your Roots” along the bottom; it represented the history of Native American life in the Pacific Northwest and their role in establishing Washington. After the redesign, Hernandez wanted the design to be more open for interpretation by audiences.
“I think if that mural would have been anywhere near Seattle, people would have embraced it more,” Aguirre said. “It’s definitely a different vibe here.”
Hernandez said the group has plans to paint over the area with an art piece that will be unrelated to Ink 22 or the previous design, but Jerrol’s will continue to sell the designed apparel.
“We’re on to the next thing,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully it gets more respect.”
Hernandez says this is not the first time his work has been covered by another message, but he was disappointed by the hateful tone of the response.
“I don’t mind, as long as it’s something meaningful,” Hernandez said. “It’s part of the territory.”
Williams agreed, saying the store has allowed anyone to use their wall as a canvas for over ten years, and the artists have always self-regulated.
“To me, it’s just some idiot with a marker,” Williams said. “I’m sure someone else will make it go away just as fast.”
He stands by the policy of absolute free speech.
“Our position has always been that all knowledge is good,” Williams said. “What you do with it may not be.”
Aguirre said when he first saw the additions to their mural, he didn’t make a connection to Nazism.
“As for the vandalism, that’s also freedom of speech,” Aguirre said. “But I think there is a plan to redo it. The vandalism didn’t cover too much of the piece, so it should be no problem to go over it.”