Clean up started Sunday on a well-known sculpture in Norman that was covered in hate speech last week.
The vandalism was part of a string of racist graffiti that started in Oklahoma City and ended in Norman before the suspect turned herself in.
“One of the things that we wanted to do is just cover up the images,” said artist Richard McKown. “We had a tent put up so we could work without people driving by taking pictures and spreading these images even further and wider.”
Those images of hate were spray painted on a sculpture McKown created 11 years ago, out of love. The large head of a little girl with a ponytail sits outside the Firehouse Art Center in Norman. The piece depicts his daughter Olivia but has a deeper meaning.
“This represents taking kids and exposing them to the world of art,” McKown said.
The Firehouse Art Center has done that, providing art education in Norman’s Public Schools and through outreach programs since 2007.
“This is a place of like expanding one’s mind, maybe that's why it was chosen as an attack, because that was about closing down one's mind,” McKown said.
The sculpture was one of five locations vandalized, including the Oklahoma County Democratic Headquarters in Oklahoma City and McKinley Elementary School in Norman.
Caught on surveillance video, 45-year-old Allison Johnson turned herself in to police on Thursday.
Johnson was booked into the Cleveland County Detention Center on a complaint of Terroristic Threatening.
Work to remove the graffiti began immediately in other locations, but for the sculpture in Norman it will take a little longer.
“If we took a power washer to this like you would to all the concrete and other surfaces this lady vandalized, we'd ruin the sculpture itself,” said McKown.
Instead the process is much more tedious because the delicate material is not concrete and requires specialized cleaning products.
“It's a German made coating that's special for this kind of porous material,” he said.
Which is why McKown has to do most of the work himself, alongside a longtime friend, to slowly preserve the piece.
“I hope the community is excited that she's coming back better than ever,” he said.
The cleanup should be complete in about a week.