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Destroyed orchid

Trashed mural prompts federal lawsuit

The Whalens and their Providing the Feast mural
The Whalens and their Providing the Feast mural

A husband and wife art team has filed a federal complaint against the United Food and Commercial Workers union for destroying a mural the duo had painted at the union's headquarters in 1998. The following year, their mural, Providing the Feast, won an Orchid Award from the American Institute of Architects.

According to the complaint, longtime muralists John and Jeanne Whalen say union bosses removed and later discarded their mural in November 2013 without providing an opportunity for them to restore or relocate the artwork.

Not only was their mural destroyed but so, too, was their reputation as local artists.

"Defendants’ acts described above were willful and intentional and/or grossly negligent. Defendants’ desecration, distortion, mutilation and other modification of ‘Providing the Feast Mural’ is the proximate cause of prejudice to plaintiffs’ honor or reputation….

"In committing the acts described in this complaint, defendants acted in conscious disregard of the rights of plaintiffs and without taking advantage of preservation techniques that would have saved the mural for future enjoyment. The conduct of defendants warrants an assessment of punitive damages to the extent such damages are available against each defendant, in an amount appropriate to punish Defendants and deter others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct."

The Whalens have been part of San Diego's art scene since the mid-1970s, when Jeanne Whalen founded Wall-It Graphics. Her husband John soon quit his position as art director at KPBS radio and television station and joined the company. After teaming up, the couple went on to design public murals including the portrait of Charles Lindbergh at San Diego International Airport, a mural at Coronado High School, as well as others throughout the state.

They are asking a judge to award punitive damages to be determined during trial.

John and Jeanne Whalen declined to comment.

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The Whalens and their Providing the Feast mural
The Whalens and their Providing the Feast mural

A husband and wife art team has filed a federal complaint against the United Food and Commercial Workers union for destroying a mural the duo had painted at the union's headquarters in 1998. The following year, their mural, Providing the Feast, won an Orchid Award from the American Institute of Architects.

According to the complaint, longtime muralists John and Jeanne Whalen say union bosses removed and later discarded their mural in November 2013 without providing an opportunity for them to restore or relocate the artwork.

Not only was their mural destroyed but so, too, was their reputation as local artists.

"Defendants’ acts described above were willful and intentional and/or grossly negligent. Defendants’ desecration, distortion, mutilation and other modification of ‘Providing the Feast Mural’ is the proximate cause of prejudice to plaintiffs’ honor or reputation….

"In committing the acts described in this complaint, defendants acted in conscious disregard of the rights of plaintiffs and without taking advantage of preservation techniques that would have saved the mural for future enjoyment. The conduct of defendants warrants an assessment of punitive damages to the extent such damages are available against each defendant, in an amount appropriate to punish Defendants and deter others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct."

The Whalens have been part of San Diego's art scene since the mid-1970s, when Jeanne Whalen founded Wall-It Graphics. Her husband John soon quit his position as art director at KPBS radio and television station and joined the company. After teaming up, the couple went on to design public murals including the portrait of Charles Lindbergh at San Diego International Airport, a mural at Coronado High School, as well as others throughout the state.

They are asking a judge to award punitive damages to be determined during trial.

John and Jeanne Whalen declined to comment.

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Comments
8

Maybe they could tell me who owned the building that the mural was painted on. Also I would like to see the historic designation or any other designation that prohibited the mural from being destroyed. AND do the Whalen's plan on suing others if their murals are painted over or otherwise destroyed? Dorian, was it you or them that used the term "union bosses"? Does the term refer to the union representatives/officers that were duly elected by the membership or organized crime bosses that the UT refers to in their anti union anti worker hit pieces?

Dec. 30, 2014

Alex: Union bosses was my term but was not meant to be derogatory in any way. I meant it literally. That said, looking back I understand how it could be construed that way. Thanks for making me aware.-dH

Dec. 30, 2014

As an old union hand I'd go with union leadership. Same thing better sound.

Dec. 30, 2014

Good grief. Union bosses? Was the mural on the UCFW building along the chain-linked freeway side road at 2001 Camino del Rio South? As for the art, it was a nice enough cartoon, but the only internet image source for the lost mural I could find is on the Whalen's website. It seems not to have been given a lot of attention anywhere else, all these years. I wouldn't say their reputation (?) has been harmed...

Dec. 30, 2014

Thanks for posting the mural, BSP. And yes, I hear you on the "union bosses" quip. My fault. I tried to reach out to the Whalens but they did not return my call. Thanks again.-dH

Dec. 30, 2014

Dorian: The UT slams unions every chance they get maybe the Reader could develop an organized labor reporter. There are many good things that unions do that never see the light of day. Many people only know what they see portrayed on TV or in the movies and believe that what they see is fact. It would be nice if there was someone who had union knowledge and presented an accurate accounting of unions, union leadership, membership and union employers.

Dec. 31, 2014

Right, when the Reader appoints a writer to cover organized labor, I'll be checking to see if Burnham Wood has come to Dunsinane. (The other day NPR's "On the Media" said there were only two dedicated labor reporters left on American daily papers.) You might wish to read the online San Diego Free Press, which frequently represents union voices and points of view and may in fact get a little help from the local AFL-CIO Labor Council.

Dec. 31, 2014

Thanks I'll check it out.

Jan. 1, 2015

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