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Palm Springs To Consider Mural Ordinance

The mural spirit and style of Coachella reached Palm Springs, but was stopped before the paint was applied.

After the city's Art Commission and PLANet Art project arranged for walls and commissioned street artists, there was excitement building up the scheduled week of painting, including businesses.

"It's going to bring people down to downtown Palm Springs, and not only are we going to benefit but all the shops and all of our neighbors around us are going to benefit also," said Willie Rhine, general manager of Lulu California Bistro, to KESQ.

Then Palm Springs City Manager David Ready ended the project. Property owners did not have proper permits for the murals, nor requested it, he said in reports coming out of the desert resort. There is no official policy that allows murals to be painted in Palm Springs.

For the halted project, PLANet Art Palm Springs' Debra Ann Mumm said her group did everything possible to get all the proper approvals.

The conflict has been bubbling since some recent murals went up. Finbarr Notte (AKA Fin DAC) and Angelina Christina painted on the wall of the Bar establishment on North Palm Canyon Drive, which caused controversy for it's street art aesthetic -- and for the fact there is no policy in place. Aaron De La Cruz also completed a mural; his work at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs was finished before the city shut down artists.

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"They are out of compliance," Ready said to the Desert Sun, and that if a mural ordinance is drafted and passed, they would not be grandfathered in and stay up.

The issue has been growing since those first murals. In November 2013, Bar spokesperson Reggie Cameron told KMIR it wasn't a signage issue because their logo or name is not used, should qualify as public art. "... So we're hoping that the creative aspects and really the reason why they wanted to have it in the first place was to hope to encourage excitement; bring something interesting to the area."

In that same November report, Ready said "It hasn't really been a problem or an issue, but you could begin to see how this type of thing may be more and more popular and it's probably important for us to have a process so council can approve these types of murals. We certainly wouldn't want to have murals on every building, but there has to be a way to go about it so it's done in a tasteful and aesthetic manner."

Yet, at Desert Highland Park, "Desert Highland" by Richard Wyatt was completed in 1998, off the path of N. Palm Canyon Drive. Also, Wyatt is known for the tradition of realism in his murals, and not for a contemporary street art aesthetic.

That all means that Palm Springs, like Los Angeles before the mural ordinance was passed in 2013, there is no policy for buildings privately owned to put up works.

"Not again," said a few Angelenos involved with theLos Angeles mural ordinance, which was delivered to Palm Springs decision makers by Saber this week. "I handed in to city hall a copy, spreading the gospel," Saber said over Twitter.

Palm Springs City Council will decide how to move forward May 7.

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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