Va. Beach hotel executive meets with artist to plan mural restoration

(Photo courtesy of Stephone Cage/WAVY)
(Photo courtesy of Stephone Cage/WAVY)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A mural along the side of the old Flagship Resort Inn on Atlantic Avenue could be returning as early as next spring.

The hotel was recently bought by Howard Johnson Hotels. On Sunday, some nearby residents were outraged as they watched workers begin to cover it with white paint.

But on Monday evening, a hotel executive met with the mural artist to discuss plans to restore it.

“Our long-term goal has been to get the mural fixed in the first place,” said Matthew West, Director of Company Operations. “We just had some outstanding issues.”

Among those issues, West told 10 On Your Side, were scheduling conflicts and a mechanical concern. He claims the mural was peeling, causing water to get in.

“We just want to make sure everyone’s health and safety is our number one concern,” West said. He noted that the company never meant to offend or disrespect the military.

10 On Your Side was there as West and the artist, Chesapeake native Sam Welty, sat down to clear the air.

“It makes perfect sense, they’re running a business,” Welty said. “Once they solve those issues… we can get the mural back up and give the city their tribute back to their Armed Forces. That’s the best that we could have hoped for.”

West said the company plans to continue painting over the original mural. Welty told 10 On Your Side he went out of his own pocket to restore it in 2013. He hopes to be compensated this time around.

West said that Welty will be compensated to repaint, but how much, has yet to be determined.

Welty said he can create something even better than before.

“The tribute that we owe [the military] is even greater than it was,” he said. “And that’s what I’m going to bring to life.”

The pair plan to meet next week, with Welty hoping to complete the new mural by next year’s tourist season.

PHOTOS: Popular Beach Military Mural Disappears

Prior to their meeting on Monday, West released this statement:

Our hotel has tremendous respect and gratitude for our service members especially in our own local community. We greatly appreciate all the feedback we have received concerning the mural. Over the last year and a half, we have been trying in good faith to work with Mr. Welty to preserve the mural and restore it from its deteriorating condition. Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful and recent events, along with our growing concern for the safety and health of our guests, forced us to act. Although we never intended to offend any of our community members or our heroes who do, have, or will serve, we welcome Mr. Welty to return and are open to finding a way to restore the mural.”

Welty posted a Facebook live video Sunday about his thoughts on the hotel’s decision and his motivation in painting the mural.

App Users: Watch the Facebook live here

The hotel’s decision to paint over the mural caused a debate on social media over the weekend and into Monday.

George Smith, who said he supports the mural being on the building, spoke Monday afternoon with 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox. He says he grew up with a military family, noting that his father was in the Air Force for 31 years.

“When Sam [Welty] does murals like this, it represents every community that has military in their town,” Smith says. “I think it’s tragic that it’s getting covered over.”