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After public reaction, AHB will rehear public mural request

Emotions are running strong, both for and against a proposed mural in Danville’s historic district, according to Architectural Heritage Board chair Tom Tye.

On Thursday, the Heart of Danville was surprised when its proposed mural, to be painted by artist Andee Rudloff on the side of the Derby Shop and Raggs building on Third Street, wasn’t approved for a certificate of appropriateness by the AHB.

Following several days of comments on social media and in person about the board’s lack of support for the mural, the AHB is having a special called meeting at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday at Danville City Hall to discuss the mural again.

Tye said the city attorney will also be attending “to explain the situation” and the AHB’s actions.

During the initial meeting in March when HOD’s executive director Nick Wade presented their request for a mural at the Third Street location with Rudloff as the chosen artist, Tye said, “We thought” the board made it clear there was a possibility that it could reject the mural design for that location. But HOD went ahead with contracting with the artist for a design to present to the board for approval.

He said members of the AHB may have been “unfairly painted” as not being supportive of the arts since they didn’t approve Rudloff’s mural.

He said several of the members are sponsors of art events such as gallery hops and the Great American Brass Band Festival.

Following the AHB’s decision, comments began flying on social media in support of and against the proposed mural.

“The artist did not bring her A-game to Danville. What has been proposed is a mediocre illustration, more appropriate for a concession stand at Millennium Park than our historic district,” AHB member Dixon posted on Facebook. “I love art — all styles — and have donated 100s of hours of my professional time to promote the arts in Danville. This is does not reach the mark. Mine was the only ‘no’ vote when this concept was first brought before DAHB.”

Cynthia Corcoran Hammond wrote, “It is not on Main Street but off a parking lot? I think it is great! We need some new ideas and more modern thinking in this town.”

“I don’t think you can take individual elements of the work literally,” David Larson posted. “What about Monet, Manet and Picasso? They all would have been cab drivers if people had not been about to get over utter realism. I wouldn’t elevate this mural to their rank but it is a form of impressionism. Besides, it’s just paint. We’re not talking about building a granite building here.”

“Sorry, guess it’s just not my thing,” Connie Beal posted. “… to me it looks like a bad cartoon plastered on a wall. And that’s okay if that is the desired intent but seems like it would be better on a playground or near a park than in the downtown business district. The appeal seems to be the community interaction rather than the subject matter.”

Heart of Danville Director Nick Wade told the AHB in March that Rudloff, a nationally-respected mural artist from Bowling Green, was interested in creating the 60-by-20-foot mural, but he needed the AHB’s approval before moving forward with the $7,500 project.

After a motion was made to approve the request, a debate began when Dixon said, “I looked at a whole array of this artist’s work and it’s lively and bright and I’m sure a lot of people are going to think it’s going to be very cool. And I do too, except I think it should be somewhere else.”

Dixon said she would rather see some other style of artwork in that space because it’s right in the middle of the historic area.

“It seems a little juvenile for Danville. It just doesn’t seem right to me” to be in that area, Dixon said at the time.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the location for the mural, with the understanding it would also approve the final design before it could be installed.

When Wade came before the AHB again this month with Rudloff’s plan for the mural, he and others supportive of the project were surprised by the AHB’s decision not to approve. Wade said if the mural design is not approved, the Heart will be out $3,000 it had to pay Rudloff to get the process started.

Board member Vaughn Frey said he was against the mural design, but not the location.

“I just don’t like the Trinity door,” board member Julie Wagner said of the door’s image on the mural during the August meeting. “It looks like a surfboard with teeth.”

After a motion to approve the mural made by AHB member Mary Girard failed, Kate Snyder with the Community Arts Center tried to clarify what was preventing the project from going forward.

“What you are saying is you want a different artist. Is that what I’m hearing?” asked Snyder. “What I’m hearing is the location is fine, but the majority of you do not want this artist to do the artwork.”

“That’s the way I feel,” Frey said.

“I’m just clarifying so that we know where we’re going next,” Snyder said.

The Heart of Danville received a $5,000 grant from the AARP Community Challenge for the mural project. The total project cost is projected at $7,500.

SO YOU KNOW

Danville’s Historic Overlay Guidelines, which the Architectural Heritage Board follows in deciding whether to grant certificates of appropriateness, says the following about public art: “Public art is an investment in the cultural capital of a community and supports aesthetics, tourism, and community pride. Where appropriately planned for, public art can enhance the cultural identity of a community and provide opportunities for interpreting the history and character of the area through a variety of mediums that complement the historic building stock of an area. Public art can take on a variety of forms, from the reinterpretation of functional features of a streetscape such as bicycle racks to the design of a gateway icon or painting of a mural. To achieve maximum effectiveness, public art should in all cases be sensitively integrated into the fabric of the community so as to enhance rather than detract from or diminish the inherent qualities of the historic district.”