Saturday, April 22, 2017

West Art District faces a white wash by the city of Orlando.

The West Art District is located 1011 West Central Avenue near Westmoreland. Walking here was an adventure from downtown Orlando. Several blocks of Central are closed off due to construction of the new Orlando City Soccer Stadium. Fencing closed the street but the sidewalk remained open. The Homeless coalition had cardboard boxes and bundles possessions blocking part of the sidewalk. The sight of the colorful murals brightened the otherwise dingy neighborhood.

In May, the City of Orlando will be holding a public hearings to address code violations for this group of buildings known as The West Art District. According to city code, a building can not have murals on the front of the building. These buildings have all four walls covered in murals. A neighbor of West Art District put in the complaint. Harrison Rai, the manager of the property fears that the city wants to whitewash the front of the buildings. With the Orlando City Soccer Stadium gentrifying the neighborhood more people might have a chance to see the murals. In Miami's Wynwood District, every building is covered with murals created by artists from around the world. During Art Basel, an international artists exhibition, new art is added to the walls each year.

Several years ago I was asked to design a mural for the front of the Fringe offices. Money was raised to fund the project but before work began, the building was torn down to make room for a sky rise condo. Had I actually completed the mural, it might have faced a city whitewashing because of the ordinance.

In 2015, the City created a new, streamlined process to approve artistic murals and allow for this creative expression to expand in the City. Below is an overview of our current mural policy process. Any mural not meeting these requirements may still be allowed but would require a sign permit.

Location in the City: The artistic mural must be located in a non-residential area that is designated as an activity center or mixed-use corridor inside a Main Street or Market Street that isn’t a historic district or be adjacent to a LYMMO or SunRail station.

Location on the Building: The artistic mural must be on either the sides or rear of the building.

Height of the Mural: The artistic mural can only take up a certain percentage of the wall depending on the height. No mural can be more than 60 feet tall.

Commercial Message and Text: The artistic mural can have a sponsor (text or logo) but can not take up more than 5% of the mural. Any non-commercial text, separate from the sponsorship, can also not take up more than 5% of the mural

Maintenance Standards: Prior to painting, the area must be properly cleaned and primed. If the mural is defaced, peels, fades or is not maintained it will need to be repaired or painted over within 30 days.

Approval Process: Artistic murals require a joint application of the property owner and artist to the City. The application includes the concept for the mural, size and location. The application must be submitted in advance of the mural being installed. Murals inside the Downtown area will also require approval by Appearance Review Board staff. 

With so many rules regulations and reviews, artistic expression seems boxed in, much to the standards of the Orwellian 1984 society.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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