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What are the painted footprints on portions of downtown Wilmington sidewalks?

John Staton
StarNews

feet2Like the footprints themselves, some of which are already starting to fade, it’s not clear who’s responsible for the painted footprints that appeared on downtown Wilmington sidewalks two or three months ago.

As works of art they leave something to be desired: Basically, it looks as if someone dipped their feet in paint and walked up and down the sidewalk, leaving tell-tale paint streaks and spatters, as well as areas where the paint seems to have spilled from some kind of container. Some footprints are clearly that; others just look like big smudges.

One thing’s for sure, however: The footprints, which appear on the sidewalks lining North Front Street (red on the east sidewalk, purple on the west) between Orange and Market streets, are not an officially sanctioned display of art.

Kay Graybeal, director of development services for the city of Wilmington, said that any permanent markings on downtown sidewalks would require prior approval from city officials.

And if it’s not approved “it’s probably vandalism,” said Lucy Crockett, a spokesperson for the Wilmington Police Department, meaning anyone caught defacing what amounts to public property would be subject to a fine or possibly arrest.

A canvass of a half dozen Front Street businesses and residents didn’t reveal the footprint-painter’s identity. Some chalked it up to a drunken prank, others to artistic exuberance. Reactions ranged from annoyed to intrigued.

At least one business owner, Paul Cowan of Down Island Traders, worried that building and shop owners might be held responsible for removing the footprints.

But while building owners are required to remove graffiti from their buildings or face a fine, the city of Wilmington maintains the sidewalks, and it would appear that city officials are content to let the footprints wear off.

It may be that with graffiti being removed in a relatively efficient manner, rogue artists have been taking it to the streets, literally, where their work will remain on view longer.

Aside from the colorful footprints, there are at least two examples of stenciled ‘legs’ with candy-striped stockings that appear to be ‘trapped’ under a couple of downtown buildings, a nod to the crushing of the Wicked Witch of the East by Dorothy’s house in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

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