Annapolis Case Highlights Clash Between Art and Historic Preservation

A November 1, 2015, Capital Gazette article reported on a pending dispute in Circuit Court that between the Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission and local artists over whether a mural painted on an historic building constitutes an “alteration,” which would require approval from the Commission. Preservation advocates argue that murals can affect the nature of a historic structure while art advocates argue the Commission should not be in the business of approving art. From the article:

The Historic Preservation Commission doesn’t regulate paint itself, but chooses to regulate images drawn onto historic properties — such as the mural on the restaurant Tsunami. Officials said murals are “alterations,” giving the commission this authority. …

The case could change how the commission regulates the city’s historic properties and might have an effect statewide.

“We’ve had differences of opinion in the past whether the Historic Preservation Commission should be in the business of picking and choosing art,” said Chuck Walsh, a board member of the Arts and Entertainment District. “They are requiring the people who want to do art to seek approval.”

Lisa Craig, city chief of historic preservation, said the commission regulates murals because they can redefine the traits of a historic property. …

Walsh said the commission’s enforcement has been uneven, and that it doen’t [sic] take an image to change a building’s character.

The article noted the dispute arose as the Commission is revising Annapolis’ historic district ordinance, which has not been updated in almost 20 years.  The Commission’s proposed revisions would have to go before the City Council.