PEORIA (WEEK) – Peoria artist and native Joshua Hawkins said nothing was out of the ordinary when he was asked to paint a giant mural on a building at 1301 NE Adams in Peoria.
The old brick building sits at the corner of Adams and Spring. Hawkins had met a man at an art show “about a year, year and a half ago,” he said. That man called him just before Thanksgiving. The man identified himself as “Nate.”
Hawkins remembered meeting the man before, and even recalled talking about painting a mural for him.
Hawkins went to the location with “Nate” and envisioned the mural the mystery man described. He said it was well put together and already designed on a grid by a graphic artist.
The mural would depict ‘Cookie Monster’ of Sesame Street fame, standing over the Peoria skyline holding up a giant cookie with a straight rainbow emitted from the cookie. At the bottom of the mural it would have three words in Russian.
“I asked him, what the Russian meant and he said it was ‘Land. Peace. Cookies I think. [..] It was a little bit weird but I thought well that’s cool I like weird stuff,” explained Hawkins.
Hawkins was paid half of the commission before starting, with the understanding the rest would be paid upon completion. He laid some base paint on Friday night after Thanksgiving. Then working sun-up to sun-down that Saturday and Sunday the mural was completed.
About 10 others helped Hawkins with the mural. The afternoon it was completed, Hawkins said he met “Nate” for lunch. He was paid the rest of the commission and told “Nate” would stop by later to see the final product.
“Nate” never showed up to see the mural that night. He didn’t answer when Hawkins called him. “The next day I called him again and still no answer, so I shot him an email and never got any reply from him,” explained Hawkins.
Three days later on Wednesday, Hawkins got a call from another “Nate”. This he said it was Nathan Comte, the registered owner of the building at 1301 NE Adams. “He says what the hell did you paint on my building for,” explained Hawkins.
“At first I thought he was pranking me,” he added. Hawkins explained to the man on the phone that he had been hired to paint the mural. “He said I didn’t hire anybody. This is graffiti. This is illegal.”
Hawkins was surprised to say the least, “He threatened to call the cops and prosecute me. [..] He told me a few choice words and hung up the phone.”
A few days later, Corey Morgan, one of Hawkins helpers on the mural was taking his mother to see their hard work in person. “I wanted her to see it in person, and we got there and it was all white. I just couldn’t believe it,” explained Morgan.
“I’m just glad I got pictures of it at the time when I could. I didn’t expect it to be gone within a week, you know. It’s wild,” Morgan added.
But why would someone pay good money to have a mural painted on a building that wasn’t theirs? Was it a prank? “I still have no idea. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.[..] Mad neighbor, a friend that has lots of money, I have no idea,” said Hawkins.
There were several neighbors nearby who said they saw dozens of people out taking photos and selfies with the mural. One neighbor who lives across the street said, “It was still there about 8’o clock one night. Then the next morning I wake up and it’s covered up.”
Hawkins still hasn’t been able to get in contact with the man who claimed to be “Nate” and painted the mural. Comte, who is the registered owner of ‘Peoria Pedicab LLC’ and the owner of the lot, was not able to be reached.