Wall of Portraits of Black Americans is Vandalized

A portrait of Lamontez Jones was torn from where it hung outside Vashon Center for the Arts.

This portrait of Lamontez Jones, a Black American who was killed by police in San Diego in 2015, was torn from an outdoor installation of portraits by The Vashon Remembrance Project at Vashon Center for the Arts (West McLean artwork).

This portrait of Lamontez Jones, a Black American who was killed by police in San Diego in 2015, was torn from an outdoor installation of portraits by The Vashon Remembrance Project at Vashon Center for the Arts (West McLean artwork).

On Sunday, Vashon Center for the Arts reported vandalism to its outdoor installation of portraits by The Vashon Remembrance Project, which memorializes Black Americans who have died at the hands of police and celebrates Black icons in the struggle for civil rights.

The vandal or vandals tore a portrait of Lamontez Jones, painted by West McLean, from where it hung, fixed with heavy screws to the wall with other portraits in the breezeway of VCA. The painting, damaged and broken in the middle by the force with which it had been pulled from the wall, was left on the ground.

The wall of portraits was installed at VCA in mid-January; previously, the portraits had hung in shop windows, businesses and other public places throughout Vashon.

According to Lynann Politte, VCA Gallery Curator, the vandalism was discovered on the morning of Sunday, April 1, and has been reported to King County Sherriff’s office. VCA also seeks information from anyone who might have information on the crime.

Sergeant Tim Meyer, the spokesman for the King County Sheriff’s Office, said a crime report was filed at 2 p.m. Sunday, and responders found no evidence to collect at the scene, such as video footage or fingerprints. He said it was too early to designate the vandalism as a hate crime, because that determination would have to be made after sitting down with a suspect.

In a statement, VCA decried the act.

“We are saddened to discover on this Easter Sunday that someone vandalized one of the Vashon Remember portraits by West McLean,” the statement read. “We think of our island oasis as tolerant, welcoming, evolved, and embracing of all people. However, racism is insidious and present, even here.

“This incident brings up disappointment, despair, fear and anger. It will not dissuade us from our belief that the arts can and should shine a light on social injustices, and only strengthens our commitment to stand for racial equity. We are directing these feelings towards more action, we invite you to do the same. West McLean says this has motivated him to paint more, and we will support his work by adding more portraits as he paints them. Say his name: Lamontez Jones.”

West McLean, who paints the portraits for the Remembrance Project, also wrote about the vandalism on the project’s Facebook page, vowing to continue his work.

“I want to get an original painting of a lost brother or sister, mother or father, son or daughter, in as many island business windows as possible. If the person or people who did this goes shopping, I want them to see a face, realize the support the island shows for our friends and families of color,” West said.

To find out more about the Remembrance Project and the life of Lamontez Jones, visit vashonremembers.org/lamontez-jones.


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