It’s a mural mystery. One local artist is trying to figure out why his work was covered up by the city without his permission. 

Last week, the artist got word from the property owner that his mural had been tagged with graffiti, and when he went to clean it up, it was gone. 

Local artist Noé Barnett says he collaborated with the A21 Campaign to create the mural last fall, to raise awareness about human trafficking. 

This main girl lives in Albuquerque and is a product of human trafficking and I know her personally, so we used her as the main subject and we put other images of other girls who were posed as victims, Barnett says. 

Barnett says last week the building owner told him the mural had been tagged.

I figured I could fix it, paint it, get it back to where it was, Barnett says. 

But when he went to assess the damage, his artwork had been painted over by the city. 

You can still see them—they didn’t even remove the paper—they just painted over it, Barnett says. 

Last October, the “Alburquerque” mural in Nob Hill was vandalized, but not painted over. In fact, local businesses chipped in to clean it up.

Barnett says he was never given that chance. 

I understand them wanting to keep graffiti off the streets, but they had no right to cover the whole thing up, Barnett says. 

Barnett says he reached out to the city but never got a clear answer as to why the mural was painted over.  

Maybe they just need to do a better job of educating the graffiti people you can’t just go covering up stuff, Barnett says. 

The city says it tries to clean up graffiti within 24 hours of it being reported. The protocol is to contact property owners before they take any action. In this case, that didn’t happen.

The city says it is retraining its staff.

Barnett says he’s created smaller versions of the mural and prints are available online. For information on how to purchase one, click here.