A Rutland, Vermont artist and “wellness practitioner” told a local news outlet he wept after learning a public mural of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg had been vandalized.
Lopi LaRoe, a local artist and activist, began remaking the mural last Tuesday, the Rutland Herald reported.
#schoolstrikeforclimate my first mural in vermont!
The mural was intended as a gift from LaRoe to the Vermont Farmer’s Food Center.
Located on a building next to the food center, LaRoe initially completed the piece in September. But not long after, the mural was defaced: the eyes had been blacked out with paint and someone had drawn a mustache under Thunberg’s nose.
LaRoe told the Herald that, as a street artist, she accepts that the possibility of someone vandalizing her work comes with the territory.
“I was kind of upset, but I think other people were more upset than me,” she said.
One of those people was Brian Sylvester, a fellow artist and “wellness practitioner specializing in subtle energy work, mandalas, meditative and healing arts,” according to a description on his Instagram page.
Sylvester, who also works as production manager for Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind and Vermont Maple Sriracha, confessed to weeping after learning the Thunberg mural had been vandalized.
“I was incredibly sad that her work was defaced so quickly,” Sylvester told the Herald. “I cried. I was so angry. … (LaRoe’s) work is relevant and powerful. It helps foster important conversations.”
“This town needs to wake up,” he added.
LaRoe, for her part, couldn’t fathom why someone would target Thunberg.
“I don’t know why people would want to vandalize her,” LaRoe said. “People don’t try to vandalize the giraffe (mural) downtown. They don’t draw a mustache on the whale.”
Last Tuesday, LaRoe buffed out the defaced mural and started drawing a new one – this time adding a smirk to Thunberg’s face.
Greta Thunberg, firebrand
In some corners, Thunberg is certainly a divisive figure.
The 16-year-old Swede’s skyrocketing profile has fiercely divided public opinion ever since she delivered a star-making speech at a United Nations summit late last month.
Her address to world leaders, cautioning them about the perils of inaction on climate change, went viral. For the next week, Thunberg dominated headlines, and social media chatter, sparking heated debate among critics and advocates of climate change activism.
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg added. “And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
In September, a Brazilian radio host was fired for saying Thunberg “needs sex” and is “unloved.”
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said last week that he thinks Thunberg is “being used.”
The reaction to Thunberg reflects the often partisan nature of the broader climate change debate.
Conservatives criticize what they perceive as her exploitation by adult activists. Liberals argue that Thunberg’s critics are ideologically motivated and can’t handle her harsh truths.