A US artist has been forced to scrap his plans to honor teen climate activist Greta Thunberg by putting a mural on the wall of a North Dakota bakery, following community outcry & boycott threats.
Shane Balkowitsch had planned to put a 2.1m-tall mural of Thunberg on the exterior wall of a bakery in Bismarck , but his plan stoked outrage among locals who flooded social media with protests and threats to boycott to the business.
Last November a massive four-story Greta mural, described by some as “dystopian” was unveiled in San Francisco.
RT reports: The 7-foot mural was slated to be posted on an exterior wall of the Brick Oven Bakery in the city of Bismarck, however when local media outlet KFYR-TV brought the story to its Facebook page on Tuesday night, residents were immediately up in arms, with the post racking up over 1,000 comments in a matter of hours.
“Can’t we put someone of importance from North Dakota on the building?” asked one outraged local. “Our state’s history is flooded with important people, Native Americans, Pioneers, Explorers, Presidents, Inventors. Seriously! This is the worst idea ever!”
The deluge of negative comments soon had an effect, prompting photographer and climate activist Shane Balkowitsch – who captured the image that was to be used for the mural and proposed the project in the first place – to call off the plan altogether.
“I feel for the bakery. I can’t have some business being threatened for my work,” Balkowitsch told the Bismarck Tribune, referring to netizens vowing to boycott the business.
Balkowitsch says the photo in question is his “most important work to date.” Since posting it to social media, the image has garnered millions of combined likes and shares, allowing the photographer to advertise both his work and “his own views on climate change and environmental preservation,”according to Analog Forever Magazine. The picture was even given a nod from the young climate crusader herself.
After revoking the application for the mural, however, Balkowitsch downplayed any political message the image – or Greta herself – might carry, insisting “It’s a picture of a 17-year-old girl; that’s all it is to me.”
“Her message and stuff, that’s her message. As an artist, it’s my duty to capture the history surrounding her,” added the photographer, who followed the young activist for months before snapping the image.
Critics of the proposed mural saw things quite differently, with one commenter arguing that “Thunberg is a symbol of divisiveness on a polarized subject,” adding “Most people have already decided their personal standings on climate change so I fail to see how painting a mural of her would be much more than provoking conflict.”
Some were far less polite in panning the idea, suggesting other options for the location of the mural: “Maybe we can place it at the bottom of the water treatment ponds. Both are full of s**t.”
Opposition was not universal, however, with a handful of Facebook users backing up Thunberg and challenging critics to create their own public artwork.
“And just like that. All the boomers appear,” one supporter said. “At least this young lady has passion. At least she gives a damn about our earth. Don’t like it, grow some talent and make your own murals!!”
Following the public outcry, the owners of Brick Oven Bakery, Steven and Sandy Jacobson, said that they had asked their landlord to not allow the mural to be built, realizing “the emotional impact that this photo may cause.”