Sides hope for compromise in wall art kerfuffle

Downtown business owner Nicolette Genier says she arranged for this painting to be put up on the retaining wall between the Duncan Garage and the Phoenix downtown. -
Downtown business owner Nicolette Genier says she arranged for this painting to be put up on the retaining wall between the Duncan Garage and the Phoenix downtown.
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Both sides in a dispute about a brightly coloured, but unauthorized, mural on the Phoenix Motor Inn’s retaining wall hope for a resolution so the artpiece can stay.

At issue is how none of the parties involved — Phoenix owners, Cowichan Green Communities (ready to rent Phoenix space) and the Community Farm Store — gained a development-variance permit from city staff before artist Cyrus Genier started work.

Councillor Sharon Jackson said staff simply followed city policy ordering graffiti removed, but she hopes the situation won’t reach that point.

“They just went ahead and painted it, and I hope we can come to a pleasant resolution,” Jackson said of city hall’s letter to the Phoenix and other parties involved ordering the mural — reading ‘Community’ — removed.

“(City staff) saw big writing on the wall and it falls under our graffiti definition, and they had to send the letter,” said Jackson. “They want to do some funky things, and I support them, but let’s work together, shall we?”

Farm-store owner Nicolette Genier said she knew a permit was needed but decided to basically paint first, seek permission later.

“Paint first, then create community dialogue, then go through the paperwork,” Genier said of her goal of doing projects with local vibrancy.

“I want to be seen as pushing the envelope, and not necessarily as a rule-breaker.

“The paperwork and path to permission is nebulous, and you have to please so many people,” she said of potential colour concerns, plus “personal likes and dislikes” of a mural.

Jackson said the city makes decisions based on policy, not council’s taste.

“My personal likes and dislikes don’t matter — what does our policy say?” she replied.

She noted Genier seemed to have followed the community-building model espoused by Portland’s Mark Lakeman, but didn’t want folks setting precedence by flouting bylaws.

Mayor Phil Kent said a permit allows staff to follow Duncan’s heritage paint-colour palette, and ensure murals won’t fade or peel into a mess.

“This is not (artistic) discouragement.

“My hope is they stop work on it, and apply for the permit from staff.”

Genier said city paperwork is now being completed. She expects mural approval, but doubts it would have happened had she followed correct city procedure.

“We’d never have been granted permission.”

Jackson was puzzled.

“Why would they not think they’d get permission? We support community initiatives.”

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