Hindu statesman calls for relocation of Rivercrest Park street mural

By Melissa Eichman, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, December 07, 2017, 6:14 PM EST

A piece of local artwork designated Tampa's first street mural and a symbol of community unity has caught the attention of a Hindu statesman who has asked that it be removed.

  • Mural located in Rivercrest Park
  • Artwork described as a mandala
  • Universal Society of Hinduism leader questioning placement of artwork

Head into Rivercrest Park in south Seminole Heights and you see the artwork. Organizers said the two-and-a-half year project cost $5,000.

A nearby plaque describes the project as a mandala, an artistic endeavor made possible by the city, county and community.

Recently, the project was mistaken for graffiti, so a Tampa city crew covered it up.

"It’s just a mistake,” said Sal Ruggiero, Manager for the City of Tampa Neighborhood Empowerment. "Those graffiti guys are hardworking, you know, they encounter graffiti all over the city, some of it looks like that."

"They were rolling black paint to match the street," Ruggiero explained. "That’s what they did, so they got about halfway through and it was brought to their attention, so they immediately stopped."

This image from Sky 9 shows the effort of Tampa city crews to cover up the street mural.

Pressure washing took care of that black paint, bringing back the artwork.

"We’re gonna bring the artist in Monday that actually sketched it out and get her opinion on it, and if it needs to be touched up with paint then we’re gonna do that," said Ruggiero.

But the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, wants the mandala moved.

"In Hinduism, mandala is a sacred, symbolic diagram," said Zed.

Zed explained that mandalas should not be located on the street for foot traffic and tire tracks.

"They are sacred symbols, and they do not belong on the surface of public roads where humans and animals tread, dogs can pee or poo," said Zed.

Instead, Zed suggests the artwork be painted on a wall.

Stephen Lytle, President of the South Seminole Heights Civic Association, responded with the following statement:

"The street mural painted in South Seminole Heights is not of religious intent, and was a unifier of the South Seminole Heights community in their efforts to increase walkability and provide traffic-calming measures to the neighborhood.”

Lytle says he has no plans to move the mural.