What a fire could not do, vandals have. Taggers defaced artwork created by famed Fresno artist Clement Renzi sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning.
The 288-clay tile piece entitled “A Day in the Park,” was on the side of the Fagbule Glass House. The abandoned building burned down on Jan. 30. All that remained was the art relief, which was untouched. Demolition crews knocked down the building, save for the wall containing the artwork, facing Shields Avenue by Highway 41, across the street from the Manchester Center.
Watch: Caltrans Video of Fabgule Glass House Fire
The building was surrounded by a chain-link fence after it was demolished. A plastic tarp protected the art. Tape could still be seen on the art, evidence that vandals removed the tarp.
“We had asked the independent contractor to put up tarping to protect the art, which they did. The tarp was unfortunately removed the very same night,” City Attorney Andrew Janz said. He said the tarp was found in a nearby encampment.
Renzi created the art for a bank that opened January 1982. The Fagbule family purchased the building in 2011 and converted it to a banquet hall. It has sat abandoned since April 2022. The family said it became a victim of COVID’s effect on the economy, and a pervasive homelessness problem.
“It’s disappointing this occurred before the moving of the art could take place. The City was working diligently with the property and other local partners to preserve this piece of history,” City Councilman Nelson Esparza said.
Janz said the property owner is responsible for the maintenance and cleaning of the art.
“The Renzi family could have a cause of action against the property owner if the sculpture continues to be damaged. The City is currently limited in what it can do since it’s on private property and the site has not yet been deemed safe,” Janz said.
Messages to Steve Fagbule were not returned.
“The owner has to step up to protect it,” said Lilia Gonzales Chavez, executive director of the Fresno Arts Council. “It’s up to him to identify the protection of that piece.”
Mark Rodriguez, a Fresno artist with experience restoring art, says the graffiti could be removed by solvents.
“The bigger issue is, it has to be removed off that wall and carefully housed somewhere and restored,” Rodriguez said. “The most critical part is to remove without it breaking.”
The Renzi art piece was painted red at some point, but no one is sure when.
Rodriguez said “A Day in the Park” could also be fixed by re-firing the clay, but it would have to be removed.
He did not have a cost estimate.
Jenny Renzi, the daughter of Clement Renzi, said it was important to her father ” to make things that people could enjoy with their hands as well as their eyes.”
“Never did It occur to us that these works would become such vulnerable — targets for theft and damage. It’s a new ball game … they need to be moved inside or somehow enclosed or protected at night. It’s as though we’re leaving some of the community’s coolest things out on a curb in a cardboard box. I’m glad the mural wasn’t broken. (It is) difficult to clean and restore, but that’s doable. I hope it will still be saved,” Renzi said.
Rodriguez, the art expert, said the spray paint may have been a “blessing in disguise.”
“If there’s any hairline cracks, you know, that sort of plasticity of the paint may hold it together,” Rodriguez said.