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Public art

Mural on side of convenience store deserves to stay at least for a little while

Graffiti art appeared on the side of a gas station at College Drive and East Eighth Avenue. The city is making the building owner go through a review process after the fact to determine whether the art can stay. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Graffiti art appeared on the side of a gas station at College Drive and East Eighth Avenue. The city is making the building owner go through a review process after the fact to determine whether the art can stay.

It can be difficult to put boundaries on art.

The mural on the side of the Everyday convenience store at the northwest corner of College Drive and East Eighth Avenue was painted by several artists taking part in the Durango Art Center’s “Open Art Surgery” the second week in April. That show was a short one, a week long, and designed to showcase bold and colorful street art most often seen on the sides of buildings. It included youthful artists from out-of-state and from Durango, and the interior of the Arts Center, due to be repainted, let the teens and twenty-somethings use their aerosol cans with abandon. The works were bright, large, eclectic and unconventional.

It was an out-of-the-ordinary presentation for an arts center anywhere, and it was a big hit with local art-goers who are curious about how the next generation of artists express themselves.

More accustomed to outside canvasses, perhaps, and unable to ignore a large white wall along a route to the college, members of the group left their artistic marks on the convenience store.

The fate of the mural is uncertain.

There has been a variety of answers by the artists about why the city’s Design Review Board was not asked to approve the artwork, but we suspect that the mural may have been a spur-of-the-moment idea. Art does not always take shape in a fashion that allows it to meet the terms of a months-long or even a weeks-long approval process, and at least some of the artists were to be in Durango for only a short time.

The artists easily may have had no familiarity with asking for permission.

At the store are dozens of signatures urging the city to allow the mural to remain. But a couple of the artists, when interviewed by The Durango Herald for a story on April 26, said that they would not be particularly upset if their work was covered over: public art can be impermanent. And, if need be, they might submit a request for another design.

There will be a public hearing in two weeks – on May 14 – in front of the Design Review Board when supporters and critics can weigh in. Comments could be many and imaginative. Perhaps a solution would be to allow the mural to remain for a certain length of time.

In the meantime, drive by. There is no certainty as to how long the mural will last. We hope that the merits and demerits of the mural – and any penalty for not having followed approval procedures – are debated, but the building owner plays a critical role in its future and his position is uncertain. The mural must be good for business, and we hope that it remains in place at least as long as the May 14.

Public art is with us, we want more of it, and in this case, we admire its vitality.