Noni Olabisi's "To Protect and Serve" mid-conservation

Noni Olabisi’s “To Protect and Serve” mid-conservation

“This mural commemorates the Black Panther Party and its unforgettable contribution to African American history. And the mural is dedicated to all political prisoners, as well as those who lost their lives fighting for truth, justice and freedom. The spirit of these brothers and sisters cannot and will not die. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!”

Noni Olabisi, Los Angeles 1997”

This mural divided many different individuals and entities in Los Angeles. It was eventually funded solely by public donations and by SPARC because the city’s stipulations on the mural were dangerously close to censorship. Furthermore, councilman Nate Holden asked that the mural find an alternative location because he feared that it would instigate violence in the neighborhood. The delays and debates lasted from 1994 to 1996, when the mural was completed. Even after its completion this mural was a site of aversion for some, while it was celebrated by other. To Protect and Serve thrived in Los Angeles for many years thereafter.

Mural Condition: 

This mural has sustained a significant amount of efflorescence and water damage. The water damage on the surface has compromised the paint on the surface of the substrate. Some sections of the mural are peeling and missing paint. This mural has also sustained different forms of vandalism which need to be removed. Additionally, the inscription of the mural has been painted over, making the title, text and artists credits illegible.


Conservation Plan: 

Documentation: All phases of the conservation process–before and after–will be photo documented.

Step 1a: MuralShield preservation coating will be applied to the acrylic paint to secure pigmentation and consolidate degraded binders. This will achieve an initial color restoration on regions that have oxidized or accumulated efflorescence.

This requires a few hours to apply. All building and architectural elements near the mural will be masked and protected from overspray. SPARC will administer a moisture assessment of the MURAL.

Step 1b:  Reattachment  of delaminated paint

This procedure binds the acrylic MURAL surface to the wall section it has been detached from. This procedure will be applied by hand.

Step 2: In-painting for color restoration

SPARC technicians will assist the Original Artist of Record in administering the in-painting repairs using high quality Golden Artist Colors.

Step 3: Final Preservation Coating

The final Preservation Coating will seal all acrylic paint and produce a highly durable acrylic surface. The Preservation Coating will protect against environmental moisture, future efflorescence accumulation, and UV damage.

Step 4: Acrylic-Paraffin Wax Coating to prevent pollution and vandalism.

The Acrylic-Paraffin Wax Coating is completely removable using hot water and soap, making future conservations economical and less invasive. SPARC stocks and distributes all chemicals and coatings. Technical Data Sheets available upon request.

Installation of Didactic Materials and Final Photography: A mural describer will be designed based on historic images. The describer will be written by the original artists and SPARC.

SPARC will take a high-resolution digital photograph of the final mural restoration upon completion.


Onsite Conservation:

To Protect and Serve by Noni Olabisi measures 40’x12’ and is located on 3406 11th Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90018. The mural is on the ground level of a west facing concrete wall. The mural surface suffered little weather damage except for the background red, which suffered substantial efflorescence. Furthermore, the mid-tone greys and white highlights suffered minor efflorescence. Titanium oxide oxidation occurred throughout the mural. There was major vandalism present in the lower left corner of the mural, the section depicting police brutality, that totally obscured the original image. There were remnants of spray paint vandalism, as well as, evidence of an anonymous person attempting to correct the vandalism with black and white spray paint, however this seemed to be isolated to the section depicting police brutality. The mural title mast and didactics had also been completely painted over. Post assessment of the binder condition, it was determined that vandalism removal would be more destructive than helpful. We then proceeded to consolidate the entire mural with the graffiti in tact.

Behind the mural surface, we discovered an abundance of built up gesso powder and aggregate plaster-based material that was used by a previous conservator to reattach areas of delamination. We reopened these areas and excavated the plaster-based material behind the paint film before we could perform reattachment. MuralShield was applied directly to the wall, followed by Nova Gel 207 to re adhere the paint film to the wall.

Under the supervision of the original artist, SPARC technicians began in-painting on the background elements, foreground objects, and clothing of the figures. The artist worked from archival imagery to recover the likenesses of the mural. She focused her attentions on the portraits and focal points of the mural, utilizing full pigment heavy body golden acrylic paints. Care was taken to eliminate any water use in the painting system. All paints used were rated at the highest lightfastness and determined in consultation with Golden Acrylic conservation technicians and material scientists.

Upon the completion of the in-painting repairs, our SPARC technicians applied a MuralShield coating to the bottom two-thirds of the mural to protect it from vandalism before the final steps of preservation. Outstanding preservation procedures include installation of the finalized didactics, the final MuralShield coating to the top third of the mural, and our acrylic-modified sacrificial coating. This system will protect the mural from future environmental damage, including UV light, pollutants, and vandalism.

MuralShield Preservation Coating patch test.

MuralShield Preservation Coating patch test.

"To Protect and Serve" prior to receiving a preservation coating

“To Protect and Serve” prior to receiving a preservation coating

"To Protect and Serve" prior to receiving a preservation coating

“To Protect and Serve” prior to receiving a preservation coating

After application of MuralShield

After application of MuralShield (top left of image) and before (right of image).

Areas of severe vandalism and delamination.

Areas of severe vandalism and delamination.

Noni Olabisi repairing the proportions of an amateur restoration attempt.

Noni Olabisi repairing the proportions on an amateur painter’s attempt to cover vandalism.





In-painting in progress.

In-painting in progress.


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