For the past year,
we've been painting tears on our faces
at the prospect of the city interfering
with one of Orlando's most defining features: its growing gallery of colorful murals on business facades. On the one hand, the city has been endorsing the giant art features (especially in the case of support for its bid for Major League Soccer), while on the other hand, the city kind of ruins everything when it steps in to "regulate" the awesome bits of its culture (see the failed attempt at extending downtown drinking hours
). Well, today the city will put its hand in that jar via a two-year pilot program that will test some ground (wall?) rules for artistic expression in commercial thoroughfares, and, to be honest, the rules don't seem as bad as the rumor mill would imply. For instance, all of the existing murals in city limits will be grandfathered in, so there's no need to get out the big white paint roller. There will be some reasonable size and text constraints, some maintenance mandates, and, naturally, a prohibition of murals in residential and historic districts (which is sometimes a strange distinction in a town that has sort of grown up around its bad city planning). Ergo, the concerns.
We reached out to City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who has in fact painted a mural with her signature Bad Kitty designs on it, because she was basically the brains behind this codification. She says that, despite mixed messages, the new program is designed to encourage murals, not decrease them. In fact, the reason the program was even pursued was because the city was targeting businesses like Se7en Bites in the Milk District because it saw the business' mural as too much of an advertisement (Se7en Bites will likewise be grandfathered in under the new policy).
"It's not the government overreaching," she says. "We're not trying to shut down free speech."
"I wanted to legalize art."
Read along at 2 p.m. today as we liveblog Council Watch where this will surely be on the tips of some tongues. However, as it is on the consent agenda as a pilot program and not being considered for an actual ordinance just yet, there will be no room for public input. Below, you can find the list of requirements for the program, and if you scroll to the end, you can see the beautiful images that are steadily making Orlando interesting again.