Artists rally to restore vandalized David Grohl Alley

It’s a story not unlike that of Rocky Balboa: When life beats you down, get back up swinging. That’s what the artists of David Grohl Alley in Warren did Saturday after their original work was vandalized with graffiti earlier this month.

Dave Karr of Warren wore his Foo Fighters shirt as he watched community members transform the tarnished alley.

“I’ve always said all along, this alley is about so much more than Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters, Nirvana … it’s about the artists. It’s like a comeback,” he said, adding that the city itself is a “Rocky” story all on its own. “Now you see things coming back down here.”

The alley, which runs parallel to the 100 block of West Market Street, is dedicated to the 13-time Grammy Award-winner musician who was born in Warren. Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana and founder and frontman of the Foo Fighters.

Last week, Warren police issued an arrest warrant against 35-year-old Kurtis Aguilera of Miami on numerous charges of acts of vandalism involving graffiti. Aguilera, who has relatives in Warren, and remains at large. He was identified from surveillance tapes.

Past president of Main Street Warren and retired police Sgt. Joe O’Grady said the vandalism kicked them in the pants a little bit, but that the group is turning a negative into a positive.

“Where else could you do this, in a back alley? Ten years ago, you would have been afraid to walk back here. But look at it now,” he said. “Everybody has a little piece in this.”

Some of Grohl’s family were present for Saturday’s cleanup. His uncle, Tom Grohl, called it “a tremendous tribute to the people of Warren and the people of the Valley.”

He said he hasn’t heard from his nephew, who has been kept busy with the induction of Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as expecting his third child in August, but knows he is aware of the situation.

“He appreciates it; the family appreciates it,” Tom Grohl said.

Artist Aaron Chine of Austintown had most of his large mural repaired by midday Saturday. The large painting on brick portraying three faces of Dave Grohl took him six hours to create. He estimated the vandalism took two hours to repair.

“It did (bother me) originally until it turned into this. It ended up being a really good thing somehow,” he said.

Chine is also working on a new piece of artwork to add to the alley.

Rebecca Greiner of Warren busied herself fixing one of her three murals on display in the alley. One of them was untouched by graffiti because of how high it hangs. With the help of Allie Vugrincic, 18, she said she was confident to have the damage of the other two covered by the end of the day.

“I kind of think there is a bright side to this because some of them needed work. It’s improving and making them better than they were before,” she said, calling the act a rally point for the community.

Mike and Susan Mamula of Vienna, formerly of Warren, came out to watch the artists in action.

“I think it’s impressive. To know that it all could be refurbished and brought back to the original state … the artists are doing a really good job,” Susan Mamula said.

David Grohl Alley Committee member Paul Clouser was helping clean up a painting created by Scott Chopko. Clouser, who lives on Courthouse Square, said there are more good people in Warren than bad.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people in this community are good. It’s easier to destroy than it is to create. Thankfully, those people are very few and far between,” he said.

Clouser called the timing of the vandalism ironic, considering the vandalism occurred on the 20th anniversary of Curt Cobain’s death. Cobain was the lead singer for Nirvana.

“This is a temporary thing. He earned a felony for this, and by the end of the day, you won’t know anybody did anything down here. I wish he would show up, though – there’s a couple people here that would like to talk to him,” he said.

Karr said he is happy that the paintings were fixed in such a short amount of time, suggesting that more positive things may come of it.

“I try to look at the bright side of everything. It’s a bad thing that happened … but maybe this will be a push off, a springboard for more events,” he said.

A Fuzz Fest will be held in the alley on May 31, which will feature live music, food and vendors. Admission will be free and the event will take place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Also, a David Grohl Alley scholarship is in the works, said Michelle Mymo of the Art Outreach Gallery.

Mymo said the scholarship will be used for future artwork and design and will be funded by donations and proceeds from future events, starting with a T-shirt competition for children in grades K to 12. Children from the tri-county area will be able to design T-shirts inspired by their favorite song, album cover or photo of Grohl.

The public will pick the winner and sales from the T-shirts will help to fund the scholarship, she said.