Felix the Cat grinning as mural stays

Street art gets another two months, replacement possible

The mural on the side of the Everyday convenience store at East Eighth Avenue and College Drive can stay up for two more months, although it’s already starting to peel. Durango’s Design Review Board gave it an extension on life on Monday. The board also opened the way for a replacement, but the new mural would go through the city’s approval process and get proper prep work. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald file photo

The mural on the side of the Everyday convenience store at East Eighth Avenue and College Drive can stay up for two more months, although it’s already starting to peel. Durango’s Design Review Board gave it an extension on life on Monday. The board also opened the way for a replacement, but the new mural would go through the city’s approval process and get proper prep work.

Felix the Cat stays put for another two months, but then another mural could take the grinning feline’s place on the side of the Everyday convenience store at East Eighth Avenue and College Drive.

The compromise was reached after Felix supporters such as 10-year-old Nick Brieger spoke up at a Durango Design Review Board meeting Monday.

“Hello, my name is Nick,” he said from beneath the podium. “I don’t think the hard work of artists should be taken down.”

The mural put the board in a difficult position of having to decide what to do with public art that had not gone through the standard review process.

“I’m concerned about getting forgiveness rather than approval, that’s a bad tendency to get into,” said board member Dan Stalker.

Board members, however, emphasized they appreciated the art.

“When I drive into town every day, I chuckle,” said board member Marcy Pryor. “None of the other murals in town thrill me (as much). It’s wonderful art.”

But Nicole Killian, a city planner, said the mural, which was painted in early April, already has begun to peel. “It did not seem like the wall was prepped in any way,” she said.

Vandals have drawn squiggly lines over the bottom of the scene showing a Native American chief, some hipsters, a chicken and a Futurama-style robot.

Greg Hoch, the city’s chief planner, said all murals should have a maintenance plan before they get city approval.

Killian also said murals have traditionally demonstrated a historical or cultural connection to the city. On a positive note, she did not believe the mural was a store advertisement, which is the main justification for subjecting art on commercial buildings to a review process.

A mix of national and local artists who had participated in the “Open Art Surgery” show at the Durango Arts Center painted the mural with aerosol cans. It was an impromptu project by the artists that was not sanctioned by the Arts Center.

One of the artists, Brian Simmons, 25, said he did not think it needed city approval because it was on private property. Kathy Chastain, the store manager, apologized to the board for the oversight.

Aaron Schmitt, another artist, argued that the mural represented the voice of the city’s youth.

Tom Umbhau, a member of Design Review Board, said his three children would much rather have their picture taken with Felix the Cat than a historical mural of a train that has been proposed for the wall of the new Welcome Center at Eighth Street and Main Avenue.

The artists said they were happy with the two-month compromise because they never thought it would stay up as long as it has.

City officials said the gas station can have another mural, but it must go through the review process first.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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