Mount Dora, the Central Florida city building a reputation for being art-friendly, will put that to a test in September.
The homeowners cited for graffiti after commissioning a local artist's interpretation of "Starry Night" on their wall have appealed the violation. The magistrate hearing is scheduled for September 14 at 9 a.m. at Mount Dora City Hall. The magistrate is contracted by the City.
When Richard Barrenechea was hired by the homeowners to create the artwork, he had no idea a storm would brew in the town that hosts an annual art festival ranked seventh in the nation.
Before beginning the mural, the homeowner, who wished not to have their names published, sought permission from the City of Mount Dora Planning Department and were told no permission was needed to create a painting on the wall.
After a forty-foot section was nearly complete and received praise on social media, the homeowner was cited by Mount Dora Police Department’s code enforcement officer on July 26.
The Notice of Violation was for graffiti, as well as signage due to a wooden sign the artist had temporarily staked near the wall. The officer reportedly was unaware of the iconic painting in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, so one of the homeowners advised her of its significance, but the citation was still issued.
The homeowners were unaware of the small sign staked outside the wall and called the code enforcement officer for clarification. Upon being advised of the illegal sign, they immediately complied by removing the sign. Days later, the City stated that the "Starry Night" mural was cited for both the graffiti and the signage violations. That statement directly contradicted their code enforcement officer's confirmation to homeowners that the signage violation was for the temporary wooden sign.
The city code (Section 22.960 b) pertains to “Maintenance Requirements” and reads “"The property shall be maintained free of graffiti or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior grade paint that matches the color of the exterior structure." The June 26 notice required the wall to be repainted by July 31.
"I feel disappointed the city doesn't appreciate a painting of the iconic work of van Gogh as art. I hope this gets resolved positively," said Barrenechea.
The homeowners appealed the graffiti violation claiming that the City of Mount Dora first allowed the painting and later erroneously defined it as graffiti. Another nearby mural in another residential area has remained highly visible for years.
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