Friday, November 25, 2016

Mirador Community Store mural

Next mural up is this design outside the Mirador Community Store on SE Division, created in 2002 by artist Gwyllm Llywdd. You don't see a lot of circa-2002 murals as this was right in the middle of the city's mural wars. The semi-short version: City sorta-welcomes murals, but frowns on billboards. Malevolent out-of-town billboard conglomerate sues, arguing that treating the two differently violates the state constitution's free speech provisions, which are even more generous than the federal First Amendment. Billboard company wins. City decides it's better to regulate murals like billboards than vice versa. New rules are very strict, with the city fining violators and sometimes sending crews to paint over unauthorized murals, for fear of being hauled back into court for selective nonenforcement. Artists hate this. Everyone hates this. Eventually the city finds better lawyers, who come up with some creative legal dodges, and a permit system that theoretically allows advertising too, if it has enough artistic merit, though off the top of my head I can't think of any examples of this actually happening.

The mural you see here was rather controversial back then. Not because of the subject matter, but because it was just too big. City rules specified the maximum size for a sign in this area was 50 square feet, and murals were now considered signs, and this one was at least 3x that large. So the city ordered the store to paint over it or be fined $50/day. After some wrangling the store gave in, sort of, and nailed plywood over parts of the mural, just enough to get it down to the allowed 50 square feet. It stayed that way for another five years, until the new city mural program kicked in, and it was finally safe to take the plywood down.

(As a small counterpoint, the anonymous "Art Wall of Shame" Tumblr really hated this mural, with a tiny bit of semi-praise: "It’s very Portland. The greenery, the essence of Hippie-ism, the rolling hills." before diving into the full rant.)

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