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The Great Folly Art Caper

20-foot mural stolen from underneath McKevlin’s Surf Shop

By Lorne Chambers | Editor

Whether they realize it or not, most people on Folly Beach are familiar with the artwork of Chris Kemp. His girlfriend jokes and says he’s the “Banksy of Folly.” Not only has he done designs for Bert’s Market, McKevlin’s Surf Shop, Chico Feo, and Flipper Finders, he also did the logos for the Folly Farmers Market, Folly Green Team, and Warrior Surf Foundation. Additionally, Kemp is the official illustrator for The Folly Current. He has done close to a dozen covers for the paper.

The fact that Kemp’s work is so identified with Folly Beach, and beloved by those who live and visit here, makes it that much more upsetting to hear that a large mural he created was stolen recently from underneath McKevlin’s Surf Shop where he also works.

According to Kemp, it seems to have been stolen late at night on Tuesday, May 23 or early morning on Wednesday, May 24.  Another employee at Mckevlin’s noticed it was gone that Wednesday morning.

From the corner of Center Street and East Ashley Avenue where McKevlin’s is located, you can easily see the building where Folly Beach Public Safety is housed. Making the brazen theft even harder to comprehend is that the painting is 20 feet long by four feet high. Certainly not just something someone could stuff under their shirt and run with down the street. Yet, there are not cameras on that side of McKevlin’s and no one has reported seeing anyone messing with the large painting.

“How did you pull that off without anyone seeing? And why?” asks Kemp. “I would think if you had a liking for the art, you would just ask for a commission. But, apparently not.”

The mural was originally painted back in the summer of 2014 when Kemp first moved to Charleston. He was working at McKevlin’s part-time and when the shop sponsored a surf movie event on the beach at Tides, he painted it live in front of the crowd. After the event the mural was attached to the bottom of McKevlin’s, where it has served as a bit of a landmark over the last three years.

“I posted something about it (on Facebook) when I found out.  I was pretty shocked at how many people were upset it was gone. But it feels good to know that people appreciate art in their community and it holds a place with them,” says Kemp. “Quite a few people sent me photos they had taken of their dog or child posing in front of the mural.”

In November of 2016 Kemp felt he had grown a lot as an artist in the two years since he had originally painted the mural, so he freshen it up a bit. “I repainted the surf goons with a lot more color and have kept adding more periodically since,” he says.

Kemp refers to the characters in the mural affectionately as “surf goons” because the painting features a colorful array of different surfers from every walk of life. “The inspiration is that all sorts of people surf these days, riding all sorts of boards as well. The diversity in the culture, design, and aesthetic of surfing as a whole is at a point with many perspectives,” he says. “The simple act of riding waves brings joy to many, and the mural was to exemplify that and how McKevlin’s Surf Shop has brought a community of all different people together with one common interest.”

Never having a piece of art stolen before, Kemp is keeping a positive attitude about the whole thing, posting on Facebook that he was “humbled” that someone liked his work enough to steal it. “I’m not sure whether to be upset or flattered that the piece is gone. Either way, it was a selfish act,” he says.

While he’s hoping that the highly recognizable piece of art somehow makes its way back to its home at McKevlin’s, he is already planning to replace it with something bigger and better soon. “I like that our funky community has a place for my art and people appreciate it,” says Kemp. “Especially having a home at the surf shop that I take pride in being a part of. I’m not sure what yet, but you’ll see it when it’s there.”

McKevlin’s owner Tim McKevlin has offered to give away a free surfboard as a reward for the return of the mural.

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