For the teachers, parents and especially the students of Heritage Mountain Elementary in Port Moody, the outdoor art mural project at the school is more than just a collection of images.
The 12 murals have come to embody the spirit of the school and the Grade 4 students who helped create the works of art.
But much to the dismay of school community, the murals also represented an opportunity for vandalism.
Sometime overnight last Thursday (Jan. 31) someone decided to scrawl graffiti on one of the 12 murals titled "Newport Village."
Students discovered the graffiti the next day.
The act of vandalism has not only disappointed Heritage Mountain principal Craig Mah, but also the students who have seen their hard work tarnished.
"It's disheartening to see it [the mural] attacked by graffiti," he told The NOW.
"When we see this happen, it is sort of an attack on the community."
The reason why it feels like such an assault on the school, according to the principal, is because of the way the project came about.
The mural project began more than a year ago, when the Grade 4 students collaborated with local artist Tammy Pilon to decorate a concrete retaining wall with the 12 distinct images.
The project even garnered donations from banks and local unions.
The murals were unveiled at the end of the last school year, while the images were then turned into cards and calendars. They have since been sold to raise money for a new playground at the school.
"It's all grassroots," Mah said noting the project was spearheaded by one of the teachers.
School officials have no idea who's behind the graffiti, but they are appealing for anyone with information to call the Port Moody Police.
Mah sent out this tweet along with a picture of the damage from the school's twitter account earlier in the week: "Sad day at HME. First graffiti on mural. Happened Feb. 7 Any info on vandals? Let @PortMoodyPD know."
Mah noted the murals are in a secluded area of the school that would make it hard for neighbours to see any problems.
In the meantime, Pilon will be back at the school Friday to fix the mural.
Mah said the school had faith the murals wouldn't be touched, but the incident has Heritage Mountain officials considering putting the images behind plexiglass.
However, the principal said it could invite more vandalism, so for now the murals will stay unprotected.
"You do really rely on people's good will not to touch it and to come and to appreciate it, but not to mark it up," he said.
Mah also has a simple message for anyone tempted to add his or her own unauthorized signature to the art - leave it alone.
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