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Who is the mystery tagger spray painting "Karen" on Paint Memphis murals?

"Karen" was spray painted on the murals at Front and Second Streets.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Mid-South is filled with a lot of great art and artists. Paint Memphis is an organization that paints murals around the city to help beautify it. 

Local 24 News Reporter Brittani Moncrease shows us their surprise when they learned some of those murals had been vandalized.

It is an unwritten code. Do not tag anyone else's art.

Across Memphis, someone either didn't get the memo or simply didn't care. 

“To me, it’s the saddest thing to do to have to tell an artist that this has happened,” said Karen Golightly, Paint Memphis Director. “Paint Memphis is a nonprofit organization that paints murals at an annual festival every year in order to really try to transform the landscape of Memphis and let everybody in every sort of community have access to public art.” 

Due to COVID and social distancing, the festival lasted roughly seven weeks this year. 

Shortly after finishing most of the murals, they received a surprising message. 

“I got a text from the owner of Soul and Spirits Brewery, which is one of the buildings we painted on,” said Golightly. “He sent me a picture and said, ‘I assume this wasn’t a part of Paint Memphis right?’” 

"Karen" was spray painted on the murals at Front and Second Streets.

“We don’t really know why, but maybe that was just an incentive to do that. Maybe that was a great big joke,” said Golightly. “Before the Paint Memphis incident happened, this person kept writing Karen over a graffiti writer in town named Zarf. The Karen person was tagging on abandoned buildings that didn’t have graffiti underneath them or all kind of weird different places: out east, downtown, Midtown, all over the city. There was no real pattern to it.” 

That left many confused.

“I contacted the muralist. They were very upset,” said Golightly.

However, the group had a surprising and abstract response to the mystery mural tagger.  

“Come paint for Paint Memphis. Let’s do it on some legal spots. Come show off your real talent,” said Golightly. “There’s plenty of walls in this city. Let’s just join together and make it amazing.” 

She said Paint Memphis is in the process of restoring those murals.