Thursday, December 19, 2013

Signage vs. Art, Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about classifying images as "signage" or "art". I should clarify that I in fact think ALL signage is art. But this specific topic is about the legal distinctions between sign and mural, or sign and sculpture in regards to public ordinances.

Parts one and two and three are here:

Next up is a November 2013 article from

Chagrin Falls Valley Art Center was in the process of creating a mural when they were issued a cease and deists letter from village Chief Administrative Officer. The mural was interpreted as a sign. From the article:

The problem is that we’re not within the lines,” she laughed. “There are no lines [requirements] in the village ordinances for a mural. There are requirements for a sign and requirements for decorating your building.” There’s nothing for a mural.
“Either it’s a sign and it must meet certain requirements, or it’s a decoration on your building and must meet another set of requirements. Ours is neither.”

“So we had to go before council,” and since they had to rule it was one or the other, “they decided that it’s a sign,” she explained.

This is rather curious. This quote implies it was the LACK of a mural definition is what forced this work into one of two existing categories, decoration or sign. However, the article continues:

“Then they said it’s too big and that it sends a message because we’re an art gallery. They said if we had painted garden tools on the side of our building, that wouldn’t be so bad because we don’t sell garden tools,” she recalled.

So ultimately, it was judged to be a sign because it promoted the services or products provided by the business.

The mural in question:

Mural of art judged to be a sign by the village of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Painting garden tools would have been ok. As long as they didn't decide to try to sell paintings containing garden tools?

Mr. McGregor wielding a garden tool.

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