Mural Sends Mixed Message



As the new mural on the east wall of the Valley Art Center’s Bell Street building in Chagrin Falls begins to take shape, two lessons from the local battle of wills might provide some guidance for the obstructionists on Capitol Hill — or not.


For one, it shows that compromise does produce results. For the other, it is an example of how giving the opposition an opportunity to save face can enable your side to get what it wants.


This local standoff stiffened last fall, after VAC officials decided to spruce up the bland wall with a mural consisting of a series of painted pictures within painted frames on a painted faux facade of brick and stucco. Their big mistake was finding nothing in the village code to prohibit such a wall painting — because there isn’t anything — but, more to the point, failing to get permission for it from the village bureaucracy.


The illogical result was that, while Chagrin Falls political leaders routinely breach the rules to allow parking and hillside variances that can have deleterious consequences, they applied a contrived interpretation of the village sign code to a comparatively inconsequential matter. The village administrator declared the artwork an illegal sign and ordered it removed, and the village board of zoning appeals concurred.


Although there were temptations among some VAC officials to fight the unjustified governmental intrusion, cooler heads prevailed to pursue a compromise, which resulted in a design competition to create a mural that would be more acceptable to the magisterial censors.


And the winners are: South Russell artist Charles “Bud” Deihl, whose selected mural design is a “fantasy villagescape,” showing people, animals and vehicles along a wall that will be painted on the wall, as opposed to paintings painted on the wall; the Valley Art Center, which gets to spruce up its wall with an attractive work of art after all; and Chagrin Falls village officials, who can say this mural isn’t a sign, because it’s not a painting of paintings that conveyed a message about the art center, even though the acceptable alternative is still art.


By the village’s rationale, the original mural portraying artworks was unacceptable for a building in which art occurs, but it would not convey a message if it were painted on the wall of a business or organization where art does not occur. On the other hand, the content of Mr. Deihl’s art does not convey a message about art, but it could convey an unacceptable message for an automobile, motorcycle or bicycle shop, a pet store or an equestrian business.


The art of compromise is a sight to behold.


This originally appeared as an editorial in the Chagrin Valley Times.


Valley Art Center

155 Bell Street

Chagrin Falls, OH 44022



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