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.