On Tuesday evening, artist Nicholas Schmidt unveiled his new mural on the walls of Monstercade in the Southside section of Winston-Salem, just a few miles from where his first mural had been painted over.
Earlier this month, Schmidt had painted a mural depicting the Wake Forest University Demon Deacon as a robber baron as part of the Art for Art’s Sake Muralfest. Despite getting approval from an organizer ahead of time, when Schmidt had mostly completed his work, he found out that the organization’s leader, Harry Knabb, took issue with the piece and it was to be painted over.
Because of this, Schmidt took to social media and posted photos of his piece before and after it had been painted over, prompting several calls from the community about censorship of art.
This week, Schmidt found a new home for his mural which differs slightly from his original work. In the first mural, the instantly-recognizable Demon Deacon was seen waltzing over rooftops while holding a cane and a bag, presumably full of money. In his latest piece, the Demon Deacon returns but this time is shown standing still, holding a clear bag of money, his cane and his pockets full of cash. The Winston-Salem skyline can be seen behind the figure, as well as the word “DEACTOWN” which was also stenciled on the original piece.
Of his new piece, Schmidt said this, “I think the monster’s row is the perfect spot for the Demon Deacon, the robber baron of Winston-Salem.”
Schmidt told TCB previously that his intention with the piece was to highlight the broad effects Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest Hospital system on the city of Winston-Salem.
“I just feel like Wake Forest is turning Winston-Salem into this kind of company town where you receive your education from them and then you go to work for them and if you can’t afford to get an education from Wake Forest, you can do so-called lower skilled work like foodservice where you’re really underpaid and your hours get cut,” he said previously.
When the mural was taken down, there was initial confusion on the part of Schmidt who was told that it was because a sponsor of the event took issue with the mural because one of their main clients was Wake Forest University. However, Knabb refuted that claim and said that the decision to take down the mural was his alone because it was too “political.”
Wake Forest University also stated that they had nothing to do with the taking down of the mural and sent TCB this statement: “Wake Forest did not request the removal of the mural and supports the arts and the free expression of artists.”
Dan Rose, an organizer with Housing Justice Now attended the event on Tuesday and told TCB that he was excited that Schmidt’s piece had found a new home.
“Struggling artists are often used to gentrify communities by making them seem hip and interesting to wealthy invaders,” Rose said. “So for AFAS to want the art without the politics is absurd. They’re already using art politically to make downtown more inviting to monied interests like Wake Forest. The event last night gave us a chance to make a statement that art and social justice go hand-in-hand!”
To read the original story, go here.