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Atlanta artists fight for the right to paint murals

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Federal lawsuit says city makes it onerous to paint murals on private property

A group of local artists is suing the City of Atlanta, claiming that city policy makes it unnecessarily challenging to paint murals on private property.

According to the AJC, a federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of an assortment of artists and property owners in an attempt to stop the city from regulating murals on private property.

The lawsuit stems from new regulations that will require potential murals to be permitted through five different agencies (including the mayor’s office and Atlanta City Council), with no limitation as to how long such reviews can take.

In preparation for the new rules, the city has cracked down on murals that have popped up afoul of an existing ordinance dating back to 1982, requiring that they conform to the new rules, the newspaper reports.

Apparently, at risk are a range of murals that already exist, including works by Yoyo Ferro and PLF.

If existing murals are not brought into compliance with the rules by June 9, city officials have reportedly threatened fines, jail time, or even removal of the murals.

Ironically, Atlanta is regarded as a burgeoning mecca for murals, with initiatives including Living Walls being fixtures in the city for years.

City officials aren’t able to comment on the pending lawsuit for now. Meanwhile, the artists are hopeful for a court order making the new rule unenforceable.

In speaking with the AJC, one attorney representing the artists succinctly summed up their position as follows: “The public art ordinance requires government pre-approval before anyone can engage in any artistic expression anywhere in the city that might be visible to the public ... That’s simply not consistent with our cultural freedoms.”

A mural by Yoyo Ferro, located at The New School.
Yoyo Ferro