People walk past the Black Lives Matter mural painted along Water Street between City Hall and Pope Marine Park in downtown Port Townsend on Friday afternoon. The mural was created June 19 using water-based aerosol paint meant for marking pavement and expected to last as long as four months. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

People walk past the Black Lives Matter mural painted along Water Street between City Hall and Pope Marine Park in downtown Port Townsend on Friday afternoon. The mural was created June 19 using water-based aerosol paint meant for marking pavement and expected to last as long as four months. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend City Council to consider process today

Black Lives Matter mural inspiration for permanent art

PORT TOWNSEND — When Port Townsend’s city council was asked ahead of a Juneteenth rally and celebration to allow a Black Lives Matter mural along Water Street downtown, the requested use of permanent paint was a sticking point.

The council members, while supportive of the relatively last-minute idea, expressed concerns that, since the area that abuts City Hall and Pope Marine Park is in a historic district, any permanent changes would need to be considered by the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.

“I’ve been on the historic committee, and I know how seriously they take keeping the historic district historic,” council member Pam Adams said during the June 15 meeting.

In the end, the council voted to allow a temporary mural and return to the question of allowing permanent murals in the area at a future meeting.

That meeting is now set for tonight, during which the City Council will consider an ordinance that would lay out a process for allowing permanent public art installations on city streets and sidewalks.

“Some groups have put up their hands, such as Jefferson County Pride, saying, ‘What if we had a rainbow crosswalk?’ ” City Manager John Mauro said.

“As a person in this community, I think that’s a great idea. However, to do that permanently, there needs to be a process.”

The Black Lives Matter mural, created on June 19 using water-based aerosol paint meant for marking pavement and expected to last as long as four months, stretches along Water Street in downtown Port Townsend on Friday afternoon. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

The Black Lives Matter mural, created on June 19 using water-based aerosol paint meant for marking pavement and expected to last as long as four months, stretches along Water Street in downtown Port Townsend on Friday afternoon. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

According to a first draft of amended city codes regarding public arts projects and the responsibilities of the arts commission, the city manager would have sole discretion to approve or deny proposed public art installations.

The city manager would, however, be encouraged to consult the arts commission and the public prior to approval.

The draft policy amendments make clear the city manager would be able to deny proposals that depict violent images, sexually graphic images, nudity, religious symbols, hatred toward persons or groups of people, support or opposition to political candidates or ballot initiatives, or imagery that may be inappropriate to maintain on public property.

“We don’t want hate speech or anything deemed inappropriate in a public city space,” Mauro said. “We want it to be clear that we encourage our diversity and artistic ethos without causing problems by offending any specific groups.”

Mauro said he believes the community generally accepts the Black Lives Matter mural as an appropriate piece of public art, calling the process of how it came together “quite inspiring.”

Mauro added, “I think that, with the right attitude, if we have our perspectives open and we’re respectful in discussing these things, these kinds of public art displays have the ability to unite us as a community.”

________

Jefferson County reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by email at njohnson@peninsuladailynews.com or by phone at 360-328-1222.

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