Does the City have a say when a new mural goes up?


Photo by: Sky Noir

Mark Holmberg, writing for the paper, takes issue with a mural near the convention center and wonders why the City doesn’t have more control over what property owners do with their own property:

I’ve also been wondering why one artist and a building owner can change the vibe of a block or even a neighborhood, when buildings, signage and just about everything else has to go through a permitting process.

Not exactly false (signage is deeply covered in the City’s Zoning Ordinance), but the idea that anyone can paint anything anywhere is certainly misleading. Any murals done in one of Richmond’s Old and Historic Districts must go through the Commission of Architectural Review. In fact, there were three such papers in front of CAR just last week in preparation for this year’s Richmond Mural Project (1331 E. Canal Street, 11 W. Broad Street, and 708 N. Meadow Street). You can read through CAR’s nine-point mural guidelines on page 75 of the Old & Historic Districts Handbook and Design Review Guidelines (PDF)—most of the guideline ensure that folks don’t go painting murals right on top of old and original surfaces.

Btw, and this is unrelated to the legalities of painting murals, but Ron English is an internationally known artist. You’ll probably recognize his “Abraham Obama,” he’s been on The Simpsons, and he’s collaborated with Pearl Jam. The mural in question is an interpretation of Guernica. He’s definitely not just some guy with a paint bucket.

You can read more about Ron English and his involvement in the 2014 Richmond Mural Project in this interview with RVA Mag, in which he says these possibly prophetic words:

Richmond’s very nice. They have a lot of walls here. Looks like [the Richmond Mural Project] can keep expanding for quite awhile without covering mine up. Mine will be the first to get covered up, mark my words.

As Holmberg points out, Richmond’s in the midst of putting together our very first Public Art Master plan. While I’m pretty sure it’ll won’t have the authority to keep private citizens from painting their own property (remember Ham’s Recession 2009?), there will definitely be opportunities to exercise your public feedback muscle throughout the process.