KALISPELL — A newly finished mural along Kalispell’s shared-use trail system was recently vandalized with targeted hate speech including anti-Semitic and homophobic messages.
The mural is part of Tunnel Vision, a Flathead non-profit aimed at beautifying pedestrian underpasses in Kalispell through colorful artwork.
“There were a couple swastikas and references to the Jewish faith,” Tunnel Vision organizer Kip Smith told MTN News.
Smith said they found anti-Semitic and homophobic messages scattered throughout a 4,000 square foot mural recently finished by Bozeman artist Griffin Foster with help from 120 volunteers.
“Some very strong homophobic, a lot of profanity anti-Semitic messaging and a lot of drawings that are pretty sexually explicit, I’ll just say it was overwhelming,” added Smith.
Smith said the vandalized mural depicts ferns in Glacier National Park.
He said a group of volunteers came together to clean up the vandalism using a temporary graffiti removal process after discovering the hate messages on Dec, 1. But just days later, the mural was vandalized again.
“Took our breath away to be honest with you and made it very challenging to kind of keep it all in perspective. But we just dug in and got it all cleaned up so that the community is not having to look at that when they walk through that tunnel." - Tunnel Vision organizer Kip Smith
Kalispell Police Patrol Lieutenant Jordan Venezio said police have not seen a recent uptick in hate messages and believe the vandalism is isolated. He added police are investigating the incident and following potential leads.
“This type of stuff is not representative of our community, and we will take it seriously and do the best we can do find out who is responsible for it,” said Venezio.
Smith said they’re looking at adding a security camera inside the tunnel to help catch vandals if they strike again. “It’s challenging because of needs for electric and WiFi and those kinds of things but we’re exploring all of those options at this point."
He said the mural will be refinished again this coming spring.
“If the wall was blank there would’ve still been this kind of graffiti, it’s just unfortunate that you know removing that graffiti then damaged the underlying mural, but we will get it fixed in the spring and bring that beauty back to that tunnel,” said Smith.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Kalispell Police Department at 406-758-7780.