Costa Mesa is officially trademarked as the “City of the Arts,” which is evident in the breezy Southern California’s town’s plentiful collection of public art. Sadly, one of the area’s most beautiful and beloved murals was vandalized earlier this week.
The mural, which is a colorful portrait of country music legend and queer icon Dolly Parton, covers a large wall on the exterior of Strut, a popular LGBTQ+ nightclub known for its dazzling drag and cabaret shows and inclusive vibes.
“Not only is [Dolly Parton] an icon in the queer community and beyond, but she is truly a model of inclusivity,” said Nero to the Daily Pilot when the mural was first completed.
Strut Bar & Club owner Luke Nero
In 2021, the club’s owner, Luke Nero, commissioned local artist David Gilmore to create the work as a response to Parton’s funding of COVID-19 vaccine research. In addition to his amazing mural work, Gilmore is a well-known body paint artist — in fact, Heidi Klum’s body was once his “canvas.”
The vandalism in this case is large “tagging” style letters that now cover a large portion of the mural. Many locals and club patrons are heartbroken and angry over the defacing. While the destruction of Gilmore’s gorgeous work, which took him over a month to complete, is devastating enough, many feel the disrespect to the mural’s meaning makes the situation even more upsetting.
The beloved Dolly Parton mural at Strut Bar & Club before the recent vandalism
“I think it’s the senseless destruction of something so admired that just perplexes everyone. It makes no sense,” Nero commented to OutTraveler. “And any real graffiti ‘artist’ would not go near this mural out of sheer respect. Yet here we are.”
The good news is that plans to repair and protect the mural from future damage are already underway. Gilmore painted over the graffiti the very next morning and Orange County supervisor Katrina Foley and Costa Mesa mayor John Stephans offered to help with its restoration.
“The outpour of love and offers of help has been amazing,” says Nero. “We have a few tricks to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The restoration of the mural has already begun