Keep Austin, Austin

Vandals graffiti South First Street's iconic 'Greetings from Austin' postcard mural

Vandals graffiti South First's iconic 'Greetings from Austin' mural

Greetings from Austin mural on South First Street
The mural in better times. Photo courtesy of Roadhouse Relics
Greetings from Austin mural vandalism
The graffiti has been removed, but traces still remain. Photo by Katie Friel
Greetings from Austin mural vandalism
Even after a thorough scrubbing, the mural needs to be repainted. Photo by Katie Friel
Greetings from Austin mural on South First Street
Greetings from Austin mural vandalism
Greetings from Austin mural vandalism

For more than 20 years, the "Greetings from Austin" postcard mural on South First Street has greeted commuters, neighbors, and tourists alike. Housed on the side of Roadhouse Relics in Bouldin, the postcard was a piece of community art long before murals became a de facto part of Austin's landscape.

On July 17, Roadhouse Relics owner/artist Todd Sanders found the postcard covered in graffiti declaring, "Welcome to Austin. Don't forget to leave," among other tired sentiments.

"I don’t understand how anyone can graffiti anything, especially art," says Sanders. "How can you disrespect art that way?"

With temperatures already climbing into the 90s, Sanders spent the morning hours scrubbing the mural, which was covered in a protective coating. (Photos of the damage before cleaning can be found on KVUE here). Despite his attempts, Sanders says artist Rory Skagen has already decided to repaint the piece over the weekend. 

This isn't the first time the iconic piece has been repainted, however. In 2013, the community rallied to raise funds to restore the postcard which had grown faded over time. Since then, it has become one of the city's top tourist destinations, attracting visitors eager to capture a quintessential Austin Instagram while also serving as the backdrop for everything from wedding pictures to quinceañera portraits.

"I think it reflects, in one wall, the spirit in Austin," says Sanders. "Iconic is really the word for it. We painted it in 1997, and never had any idea that in 2019 that we’d have tour buses pulling up."

Though Sanders says he's "baffled" by the vandalization, he hopes this serves as moment of positivity, saying, "I’d love to promote the art and not worry so much about these losers."

Indeed, the prolific neon artist has an expansive body of art to promote, including work currently showing in Los Angeles, Nantucket, and Tulsa. Here in Austin, Sanders just completed a collaboration with famed artist Federico Archuleta, the creator of such iconic pieces as "Til Death Do Us Part" and the massive Our Lady of Guadalupe on the side of Tesoros Trading Company.

And as owner of Roadhouse Relics, Sanders considers protecting the artwork an extension of his work. "I’m very proud to be the caretaker of the mural," he says, later adding, "I'm going to fix this every time they do this."