Paint Memphis director reacts to city's new mural moratorium

Paint Memphis director reacts to city's new mural moratorium
Updated: Mar. 7, 2018 at 6:14 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The leader of Paint Memphis is speaking out about a mural moratorium put in place by Memphis City Council.

It's all part of the latest chapter in a feud over public art.

"We have gotten singled out," Paint Memphis director Karen Golightly said.

Golightly said she's sad to see Memphis City Council members throwing the book at her nonprofit organization.

Tuesday, the council enacted a 120-day moratorium on art on public property.

"People have never talked about art in this way before, but I also think in some ways it's been divisive and that was certainly not our intention," Golightly said.

The debate over Paint Memphis murals at Lamar and Willett has been contentious, and city council members said they've received public complaints that the art is offensive.

"They're just distasteful," Memphis City Council member Jamita Swearengen said.

"That art looks like graffiti, it looks like gang graffiti, so now just trying to know–we know what was done wrong, so now it's time to fix it," Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd said.

The city public works department went out to buff so-called offending murals in February but painted over the wrong ones, adding fuel to the fire.

Six murals initially drew the ire of council members.

Golightly said only three of the murals are on public property and all the artists have rights and can sue if their work is altered.

"There are certain rights and those are federal laws that artists have rights to about how they have their art painted over, so some of that is proceeding in those terms," Golightly said.

Boyd said the moratorium will stand as the body works to come up with standards moving forward.

"We want to put parameters in place basically as to how murals are painted who approved those murals and what's deemed appropriate," Boyd said.

"I do think it speaks volumes and sends a message to the city that we don't value art here," Golightly said.

Golightly said despite the criticism, Paint Memphis is willing to work with the city council moving forward and said it likely will put future art on private property only.

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