Atlanta Proposes Government Oversight for Publicly Visible Artwork on Private Property

First Colorado won’t let you hang toilets in trees, and now Atlanta is considering legislation that would require property owners to receive government approval before installing publicly-visible art such as murals and statues—and even nontraditional paint jobs—on their homes, Creative Loafing Atlanta reports.

The proposed law, introduced by councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, aims to prevent the creation of controversial public works of which the community disapproves. Atlantans have been responding negatively to public art of late—vandals recently destroyed unpopular murals commissioned by Living Walls. (See reports from Community Rejuvenation Project, Burnaway, and Creative Loafing Atlanta.)

The approval process would involve several city agencies, each of which would have 30 days to consider proposals. The art cannot have any commercial message, and cannot be distracting to drivers. The law’s definition of public art reads as follows:

Public art is for the purposes of this article defined as an expression of creative skill or imagination in a visual form, such as painting or sculpture which is intended to beautify or provide aesthetic influences to public areas on private property or areas on private property which are visible from the public right of way or other public spaces. Public art may be physically expressed as the creation of a structure or the depiction of visual expression located on the outside of a building on private property and which is visible from a City park, sidewalk, street or other right-of-way. Certain definitional criteria are included in the definition for the purpose of differentiating the expression from commercial speech that is regulated by the Sign Ordinance and for the purpose of preventing distraction to vehicular and pedestrian traffic and providing certain reasonable safeguards that will protect the quiet enjoyment of adjacent property or property from which such expression is visible.

Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Units are currently voting on the law, and at least one has already voted to reject it unanimously.

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