Drivers on Laguna Canyon Road may have noticed that an Orange County landmark is missing.
The Laguna College of Art & Design mural that graced the side of the Laguna Canyon Winery is now a plain gray wall. The mural was painted over by the winery owner, who apparently did not recognize its significance.
The mural was one of six in the city that were designed and painted by art school students in 2003. It was the largest mural by the college and in Orange County, mural instructor Mia Tavonatti said.
"This person, without any thought, painted over something that the students put a lot of work into," Tavonatti said. "It's frustrating. In a town that makes its living off art.... That's what brings people to that town, and that's why that guy has a successful business."
The tenants had applied to have signage put on the mural wall, city officials said, but the application was denied because of the wall's status as a public work of art.
City Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl noticed that the mural was gone while driving in February.
After receiving a number of complaints, the city contacted the property owner, Steve Henry, who was unaware that the mural had been painted over.
"We helped support [the mural] with a little financial aid, so it was a big surprise to us," Henry said.
He said he told the winery owners when they inquired about signage that any action involving the mural would have to be taken up with the city and the arts college.
It's very clear in the lease agreement, he said, that the mural was public property as well as his.
Marlowe Huber, a co-owner of the Laguna Canyon Winery, said he painted over the mural.
He said it was a misunderstanding.
Huber is meeting with art school faculty and the property owner to come up with a solution.
Laguna College of Art & Design President Dennis Power said he believes the act was not malicious.
"We've had phone conversations with the winery owner, and he's indicated to me that he thought it was not illegal or a problem to paint over something that is on private property," he said. "The city has a process if you want to remove public art. He claims he was not aware of it."
Power and Henry are devising a plan for another mural, Power said.
"I'm sure, if given the opportunity, we'd make another great mural," Tavonatti said.