Artwork Featuring Syrian Refugee Children Defaced Along Riverfront

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A short walk from the crowded Three Rivers Arts Festival, along the Allegheny Riverfront near the Fort Duquesne Bridge, there’s a public art exhibit of large photographs titled “Displaced.”

The photos, taken by Maranie Staab of Pittsburgh, depict young refugees from war-torn countries, including Syria and Iraq.

Early Wednesday, two of the photographs were taken down after images of Syrian children were defaced.

Officials of the Arts Festival, the Cultural Trust and Riverlife, a group which oversees Riverfront displays, believe the vandalism was random and not politically motivated.

Random or not, people KDKA talked to said the vandalism was tasteless and obscene.

Dave Bowen, who recently moved from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, was admiring the artwork Wednesday.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s kids screwing around, or if it’s someone who doesn’t like Syrian refugees. It’s the way of the world today, if you don’t like the artwork, move along,” he said.

Calyssa Lowery, from Carmichaels, said, “It’s another person’s artwork, you know. It’s disrespectful, not only to the people in the picture, but to the artist.”

Roxanne Lawson was jogging along the riverfront. She’s never been to Pittsburgh before, and is in town now on business for a few days from West Palm Beach, Florida.

Lawson told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti, “If it’s intentional, it’s very disturbing. With everything going on the world these days, we don’t need any more hate, and if it’s not intentional, it’s just unfortunate.”

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Meantime, Staab said on Facebook that she’s disappointed someone would do that to her work.

She said in the statement: “If the person that did this happens to see this, I would welcome the opportunity to speak to you about these kids.”

The Cultural Trust is urging anyone with information about the tagging to contact Pittsburgh Police.

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