VandlGuard IsoFree Protects
Restored AIDS Mural in LA

In 1988 as part of the AIDS Project LA, artist Russell Charlton painted the Blue Moon Trilogy. The historic mural celebrates the medical success of AIDS research. He used ancient symbols to illustrate a journey filled with self-discovery, strength and compassion. Rainguard’s VandlGuard IsoFree, available through the Concrete Decor Store, protects the mural’s bottom third. Photo courtesy of

The Blue Moon Trilogy mural — painted in 1988 to honor those who battle and have battled AIDS — is clean, bright and more durable than ever. Credit in large goes to Scott Haskins, president of Fine Art Conservation Laboratories in Santa Barbara, California, and a varnish called VandlGuard IsoFree.

Haskins, a professional art conservator who specializes in murals, worked with LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Caltrans, the Hollywood Bowl, a councilman’s office, the artist’s family and neighborhood organizations. Together, they devised the best route to restore, preserve and maintain the 186-by-20-foot mural.

“That area gets tagged a lot,” Haskins says of the Highway 101 underpass. So, with inevitable graffiti on the horizon, they needed an extremely durable varnish that can take repeated scrubbing. That product turned out to be VandlGuard IsoFree from Rainguard.

Tackling the restoration

Haskins says the Blue Moon project was tricky for several reasons. For beginners, the mural resides in a well-traveled freeway underpass near Hollywood Bowl, so workers had limited access. Plus, in addition to the location, Caltrans’ regulations and California’s cumbersome laws slowed progress further.

In addition, the artist originally used an inferior house paint to create the mural. Consequently, the layers were soft and permanently damaged by graffiti and past attempts at cleaning. So, the conservation team redrew the design and color-matched the vivid hues with today’s high-quality outdoor enamel paint.

All the while, they retained the original mural’s composition. The DCA and the family, who still holds the legal artist’s rights of the artwork, coordinated the work.

“Basically, we replaced the mural with one that would look its best much longer and better withstand maintenance,” he says.

Mural representing AIDS research covered in grafitti gets a facelift and protection with VandlGuard IsoFree
Blue Moon Trilogy Mural fully restored and protected with VandlGuard IsoFree
Before and After: Over the years, exhaust fumes and graffiti have marred the 1988 mural’s appearance. Now, in 2022, the mural has been restored as part of Los Angeles’ public arts restoration and maintenance program. Photo courtesy of
Finding a replacement varnish

Haskins explained they restored the top two-thirds of the mural before tackling the bottom third, which was in the worst shape. To complicate matters, California outlawed the varnish used on the mural’s upper two-thirds because of environmental impact. Haskins had to find a replacement.

“The city of Los Angeles went through lots of bad choices for varnishing outdoor murals along the freeways over the last 20 years,” he says. Then, a few years ago it found one that “did a pretty good job” but it yellowed.

About that time, the owner of Rainguard, Claude Florent, caught wind of the project and contacted Haskins. He told him his company made a purer-quality varnish than the one used prior. He added his company backs the product’s performance with stringent tests for stability and no failures.

“I tested it and liked it a lot,” Haskins says. In addition, he kept tabs on some murals done a couple of years prior near freeways. The results impressed him, he says, even with natural aging and abuse. “It was as good or better as the other varnish without all the negative attributes.”

One tough guard

For starters, VandlGuard IsoFree is water-based. It emits no VOCs and has a better pot life than what Haskins used before. It dries to form an extremely hard covering that doesn’t yellow. And you can clean in with various techniques with excellent results.

Scott Haskins applies VandlGuard IsoFree to the Blue Moon Trilogy mural.
Protecting murals in public places from graffiti is a big part of the pre-planning process. Here, Scott Haskins of FACL Inc. applies the final coat of VandlGuard IsoFree to the Blue Moon Trilogy mural. No one has ever reported a problem with the product clouding or blooming. Likewise, these conditions have never shown up in aging or testing. Photo courtesy of

Besides the Blue Moon Trilogy, Haskins recently used VandlGuard IsoFree on murals in Texas to protect them during a move. The city of Austin hired FACL to remove murals from walls of buildings scheduled for demolition. Famed Mexican artist Rafael Navarro painted the murals.

“The murals are on canvas and were attached to the wall,” Haskins says. To help keep them intact, “We applied VandlGuard IsoFree on the murals before removing them. This provided a cushion layer that helped absorb stress when going through the removal process.”

Those preserved and restored murals are scheduled to reside in Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin by fall 2022.

In conjunction with LGBTQ Pride Month in June, the city of Los Angeles unveiled a newly restored mural. The Blue Moon Trilogy is protected in part by VandlGuard IsoFree
In conjunction with LGBTQ Pride Month in June 2022, the city of Los Angeles unveiled a newly restored mural. The Blue Moon Trilogy is protected in part by VandlGuard IsoFree, available through the Concrete Decor Store. Photo courtesy of Isabel Naturman, District Council 4, Los Angeles

Here’s a short video of the mural restoration process

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