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Arts Council planning downtown murals

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

Transforming drab, brick buildings into a painter's canvas is the Decatur Arts Council's goal, and the City Council could help make its dream of beautifying downtown a reality.

James Tardy and other Arts Council members envision framed, weather-resistant murals adorning downtown buildings. He told the City Council on Monday that the organization would need little if any financial support from the city.

"The murals won't be painted on buildings," Tardy said. "It will be a high-quality, weather-resistant frame that's bolted onto buildings. We already have seven, eight or nine business owners who are interested in hanging them on their buildings."

The Arts Council would like to replace the murals each year, Tardy said, and host a contest to let the community vote for its favorite pieces.

"We're not asking primarily for monetary support from the city," Tardy said. "This will be funded with the help of business owners and fundraisers, and we'll be asking for grant money from a variety of sources. We may come ask for small amounts, but we don't have the specifics yet. We'd like to ask for support from the tourism board, parks and recreation and beautification."

Councilman Ray Metzger suggested giving the Arts Council $1,000 per year to help with matching grant funds.

Council President Billy Jackson asked Tardy if he had a ballpark figure of how much the Arts Council would seek in city funds.

"You say you don't need very much money," Jackson said. "But not very much means different things to different people."

Tardy said it's not the Art Council's intention to have the city fund the project.

"We could need the use of a fax machine or help with printing costs," Tardy said.

In a proposal delivered to the City Council in March, Arts Council member Tracey Sykes said the mural project could begin this month with a possible completion date of May 2008.

She said a street arts festival would accompany unveiling of the murals.

"We want to attract visitors to the downtown area of Decatur, while promoting community involvement in the arts," Sykes said, "to connect the two major areas of downtown."

Sykes said the Arts Council would also display the murals in collaboration with Willis Gray Gallery and Carnegie Visual Arts Center.

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