A business owner in Salem, Oregon, painted a mural honoring the American flag and the Marines who raised it at Iwo Jima. Most observers considered it a beautiful memorial and an attractive use of an otherwise nondescript wall. The owner of the business commissioned a local artist to create the tasteful and fetching display of patriotism.
The Salem City Council has ordered him to remove it, or face fines of up to $200 per day.
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The artist, Mario De Leon, raised the alarm in a Facebook post:
What’s up everybody. The city of Salem is forcing @valleyroofingoregon to remove the mural I painted or to give the mural to the Salem art society. This mural is painted on the property of the business owner. Far away from the street or city property. The city is fining him 200 plus dollars a day if it doesn’t get removed. Or he has to give the mural to some art society. .We are making a petition to keep it up.Not only do they want it removed immediately. But they want it removed during the winter. Where you cant even paint over it. What a play by the city of Salem.Remove it plus fines. Or give it to a art society and let them have their way with it.Even when we help fight the wars they don’t want us to be talking about our contribution.We will post the petition when the time comes.
One commenter identified the problem, saying, “It has to do with the Salem City Public Art Committee. All public art is supposed to be sanctioned by them. Apparently, even on private property.”
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The Salem City Council has recently undergone a progressive makeover, with several longtime conservative council members having retired. This appears to be the result.
Several commenters on social media noted that the mural is on the back of the building, on private property and away from the entrance to the business, so the commercial sign code should have no bearing.
A friend of the business owner has put together a petition to send to the Salem City Council:
As many of you may have seen, there is a beautiful new mural on the side of the Valley Roofing building located at the intersection of Kuebler and Turner rd in South Salem. The mural depicts the iconic flag raising at Iwo Jima during the pivotal battle of WWII in the Pacific. This artwork is beautiful, tasteful, and honors our veterans both past and present. This mural is currently in danger of removal unless the city of Salem grants an exemption or makes a simple allowance. Considering the nature of the art and it being located on private property we feel this could be an easy win for everyone.
My good friend Jon Taylor owns Valley Roofing and had the mural commissioned by a local artist to honor his many friends and family members who have served. As a United States Marines and a disabled combat veteran I find it to be particularly moving and beautiful. Jon does a lot for this community both personally and through his business. He is a true credit to our fine city and a shining example of the sort of person we should all want as a neighbor and community leader. He has always donated time, money, and support to various local veteran causes and this was personally meaningful to him as a patriot and friend to local veterans. The mural seems to have caught the eye of someone at the city who cited an anonymous complaint resulting in a removal order and pending fines. We are aware of the process for “public” artworks and have been trying to find an amicable solution that satisfies the city but have not had much luck.
As a veteran and a business owner in this city I want to encourage more citizens to be like Jon and beautify Salem through both art and deeds. My hope is that a petition and maybe some emails from fellow citizens to our city council will raise the awareness and support for this problem. In times like these we can surely be using our local resources for anything better than harassing local businesses who want to change our community for the better.
It appears that when the Salem City Council returns from its long holiday break, it will have a public relations nightmare to address.
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