On Monday, the City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission voted 5-0 (with one abstention) to deny the application of Wallpapered City to have artist Shepard Fairey paint a large mural in support of voting rights on the side of the Railway Exchange Building at 229 E. Wisconsin Ave.
The effect, says mural organizer and local artist Stacey Williams-Ng, could be chilling for local artists.
Fairey is the creator of the recognizable Obama "HOPE" campaign image.
The 1899 building, one of the city’s first skyscrapers, is designated as historic by the city, and any exterior changes require permission from the HPC.
Because she owns the Railway Exchange Building, committee member Patti Keating-Kahn abstained from the vote.
When the Fairey mural became public in early July, a letter signed by more than 100 community members was sent to the committee, saying, "We find it troubling that our city’s arts institutions and funders would consider giving resources to a problematic white male artist who purports to represent BIPOC people, but has not reached out to Milwaukee’s BIPOC artists."
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Wallpapered City called those concerns, "very important and wholly justified," adding that they were, however, "cloaked in misunderstanding and assumptions about the nature of the project, and the artist."
Others opposed it based on plagiarism claims leveled against the artist, on the basis that it has a political message and on the size of the mural.
The HPC said it was concerned about painting the mural on unpainted brick and is working on guidelines for this type of artwork on masonry. Those guidelines are not yet complete, leading the members to deny the request on those grounds, to avoid creating a potential precedent.
However, Williams-Ng calls the decision, "an overreach, (because) there is currently no ordinance in place to allow the HPC explicit control over murals on historical buildings."
In advance of the meeting, the committee sa…Read more...