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City seeks input on mural program

This spring the Milwaukie Arts Committee (called “artMOB”) received approval from the City Council to bring forward code language changes that will define two separate paths for the review and permitting of public murals.

Members of artMOB will hold an informational meeting on the future of public murals in the city from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at City Hall, 10722 S.E. Main St. Participants will get an overview of the proposed program and will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments.

by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - This trompe l'oeil design suggests mustangs are coming through a wall in front of Milwaukie High School. Milwaukie could see more murals if City Council passes code changes.Current code does not permit large-scale public murals in the city. Milwaukie officials intend to bring these code changes before the Planning Commission in the winter, with final adoption by the council soon thereafter. The hope is to see new murals in town by the end of summer 2014.

When the Planning Commission updated the sign code in 2006, the difficulty of permitting murals as signs was acknowledged as “a problem yet to solve.” Murals were not defined in the code and, as such, would be allowed only if they complied with sign code regulations — which would limit their allowable size to 20 percent of wall space in most areas.

Milwaukie’s mural program, as envisioned by artMOB, hopes to enrich the environment of public spaces; enhance tourism and the economic potential of Milwaukie; and reflect and celebrate the diverse spectrum of heritage, traditions, and artistic expressions in the community.

The proposed program would be required to adhere to all federal, state and local laws related to free speech “while respecting the opinions and preferences expressed through public involvement,” a news release said.

Five groups that want to place murals in Milwaukie include the North Clackamas School District, Dark Horse Comics, Spring Creek Coffee and the Kellogg Wastewater Treatment Plant (on the back clarifiers along the park trail to mitigate graffiti/tagging that is occuring). The Arts Committee also would like to find a location for the historic mural painted by Beaverton resident Larry Kangas that was located on the side of Chopstick’s Express and removed by the property owner about two years ago.

“The artMOB seems to be setting up a good program that includes doing an inventory of the walls in the city as a first step,” Kangas said. “I hope they will work with the historians and artists groups to create a list of best subjects to be portrayed. When I say artists groups, I mean artistically minded folks who guide the feel of things so that the collection does not end up as a bunch of boring historical stuff.”

The council may consider providing funds for a grant program to help artists and building owners offset the costs of installing murals as public amenities. Officials estimate a city matching grant program of $5,000-$10,000 could fund one to three murals in the first year of the program.

The Planning Commission and City Council reviewed proposed design and code changes in a work session Tuesday, Oct. 8. Following the public meetings in October, the city plans at least one more Planning Commission hearing in November or December. A City Council hearing and final adoption could be as early as the end of this year.



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