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Heart says mural was intended to test Danville’s public art processes

Testing the Architectural Heritage Board’s process of approving or denying public art was one of the primary goals the Heart of Danville intended to accomplish when it chose a contemporary artist for a mural project in the city’s downtown historic district.

“We are 100-percent meeting our goal,” Heart’s executive director Nick Wade told the board at its regular meeting Thursday.

“With some difficulties, we are figuring it out, hopefully making it easier for the next person” to have a public art project approved, Wade said.

Earlier this month, the AHB denied the Heart’s request to have contemporary artist Andee Rudloff paint a mural on the side of the Derby Shoppe and Raggs building on Third Street. The AHB had previously approved just the location after seeing examples of the artist’s style.

The City of Danville has called a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5 at city hall to hear the Heart’s arguments that it should be allowed to have the mural painted. The Heart will aim to show city commissioners that the mural project met all of the requirements of the AHB’s public art guidelines. The commission can also hear the AHB’s reasons for denying the project; and the commission can ask questions and listen to public comments.

“I fear if it becomes a matter of public opinion … then that becomes a driving force, and for me that’s a loss right there,” said Heart board member Kate Snyder, who is representing the Heart with Wade at the commission meeting. “That’s a loss for art when that is the dividing factor of what gets to go up in town, is whether or not people like it.”

Snyder asked, “Does that mean if you want to put up a piece of part you have a ballot referendum? … That’s not how art works, but that’s what we have.”

“This is not about not liking something in the image. It’s about the process and public art in Danville,” said board member Megan Noltemyer.

“We all knew there’d be some process breaks in the beginning … Hopefully we will work our way through those where the process becomes clean, crisp and short. Not complicated. Not this four-step stuff,” board member Chris White said.

White also said the approval process for public art definitely should keep out personal opinion of the content or style of any proposed project.

“At the end of the day, if this isn’t what you want, the next project can be,” White said.

He said he doesn’t want to see people turn away from investing money downtown because of red tape and concern that personal opinions of others could influence what can be allowed in the area. He also told the board he was concerned that creative people may be reluctant to bring their art projects forward to be considered.

“We’re already hearing artists saying they want to stay away from Danville,” Snyder said.