Medina looks to accommodate public art, perhaps with an Arts Commission to review proposals

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 August 2020 at 10:32 am

‘I think it’s time for the village to come into the 21st Century with modern art. I think there is a place for it and a place not for it.’ – Mayor Mike Sidari

Photo by Tom Rivers: The new mural of the Canalligator has been popular on social media. The large painting is on the back of a building in an alley off Proctor Place, a block from Main Street. The Form Foundation says there is some lore in Medina that there was once an alligator in the Erie Canal. This alligator is also a Buffalo Bills fan.

MEDINA – Village of Medina officials want to accommodate public art, perhaps by identifying a section in the village where murals would be allowed and may form an Arts Commission to weigh in on the proposals.

The Village Planning Board has been asked to issue a certificate of appropriateness for three murals in the historic district. One of them is already done. The board will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss the murals. (A fourth mural is proposed outside the historic district.)

The “Canalligator” debuted last month on a cinder block building, and on the back of boarded-up windows in an alley off Proctor Place.

The Form Foundation, a group in Medina pushing public art, spearheaded the project. It wants to do three more murals and would like to get started soon on those projects.

“I think it’s time for the village to come into the 21st Century with modern art,” said Medina Mayor Mike Sidari. “I think there is a place for it and a place not for it.”

Sidari and the Village Board discussed the murals on Saturday. The Canalligator mural should have come before the Planning Board before it was painted, board members said.

“They put up one and rejected the authority of the Planning Board to have any say over it,” said Todd Bensley, a village trustee.

He said he favors public art, and would like there to be a moratorium on the projects until the village establishes a process that includes modern art.

“All I’m asking for is dialogue,” Bensley said.

The Form Foundation put a petition on that was up to 1,060 supporters this morning, urging the Planning Board to keep the Canalligator and embrace the other murals. The petition states the village code enforcement officer and Planning Board is arbitrary in enforcing rules and “out-of-touch legislation.”

The foundation said the village was aware of the mural while it was happening, but didn’t respond until the mural was completed.

Village Trustee Marguerite Sherman said the Form Foundation seems to be trying to “steam roll” the projects past the Planning Board.

“I feel like someone is looking for a fight instead of working together,” she said at Saturday meeting.

Sidari said Planning Board Chairman Chris Busch has suggested Medina create a Public Arts Commission that would review murals. Medina has allowed the large outdoor paintings in recent years as long as they had a historical theme.

The Commission would review the proposals as well as the materials being used and the locations.

Trustee Sherman said she didn’t want to see another layer of government added. She said the Planning Board should stay empowered in reviewing the projects.

The Village Board, however, agreed to pursue a moratorium on public art that would likely last for 60 days. The board set a public hearing for 7:05 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the Shelby Town Hall. The moratorium will decide whether Medina should add a Public Arts Commission to review the projects. The moratorium would also give the village time to review its existing regulations for public art and see if those rules need to be updated. Village Trustee Tim Elliott cast the lone dissenting vote against a moratorium.

That moratorium won’t be in effect for Tuesday so the Planning Board can decide whether the two new mural proposals in the historic district can go forward without delay and whether the Canalligator can stay.

Sherman said the Planning Board has been put in a difficult position because the normal process of submitting an application ahead of time wasn’t followed.

Now there is urgency to approve the new murals as well because the artists have been scheduled to do the work.

“I would like to see the Planning Board have more time,” Sherman said. “I don’t think they should be pressured to make a decision because people are down their throats right now. We just want things to be done in an orderly way with the proper process.”