CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Streaky stains caused by rainwater running off Interstate 64 have spoiled the work of dozens of artists and threaten the future of the peer to pier program, its founder said.
Lori Brannon, who convinced city leaders to recruit artists to paint murals on the columns that support I-64 after seeing a similar project in New Orleans, alerted members of the Strong Neighborhoods Task Force of the problem last week.
"There are lots of maintenance issues," Brannon said while showing photos of damaged murals.
Problems started last summer, when artists began painting the murals along the north side of Kanawha Boulevard. Those piers sit right under an expansion joint for the roadway above. Whenever it rains, water pours through the joint and streams down the columns, carrying dirt and other contaminants with it.
Some of the columns painted this summer -- half of the ones along Virginia Street lie under expansion joints -- are already stained, Brannon said.
Geoff Plagemann, who like Brannon works in the city's planning department, discovered another problem this summer while painting a mural. Several of the piers are located beside a vertical pipe -- a downspout of sorts -- that carries rainwater from a highway drain to an underground pipe. The spout has two pieces, a smaller upper section that fits loosely into a bottom section.
"Geoff has a video," Brannon said. "He was there during a major rain. Water was gushing out [of the joint]. We were never aware of that before." The drain is apparently clogged up, forcing the water to back up, she said.
Plagemann said he shot two videos -- one of gushing downspouts, another of an expansion joint leaking a curtain of water.
The downpour about a month ago washed out a day's work for his wife, Emma, on the mural she's been working on. After that, they rigged up a plastic curtain, wrapped around the column.
"So now we go down there, raise the curtain, work on it and put it back down," he said. There are brownish streaks on the white-painted column above her mural, and more on the curtain.
"For the most part it's on the outside of the plastic," Plagemann said. "The staining isn't that bad. You can wipe it away with a wet cloth. But you need some kind of plan for maintenance."
Reaford Walker, a professional sign painter, also ran into rain problems while painting his mural of John Brown this summer.
"It's already staining," Walker said. Pigeons, too. "They were pooping on my painting."
He took direct action. He put spikes to keep the pigeons from roosting. He also devised a method to divert drips.
"I put some triangles up, aluminum triangles, so it wouldn't drain down on the column. I think the triangle idea would be a good idea."
Charly Hamilton, who has painted murals each of the last three summers, said he was tempted to try Walker's approach until the contractors working overhead on the bridge and its approaches created another problem. His Boulevard mural, which he painted last summer, lies under the westbound on-ramp.
"The people building the ramp drilled a hole, about 4 to 5 inches in diameter, to allow concrete drainage," Hamilton said.