During the Trinidad City Council work session on Monday, March 9, considerable discussion took place regarding establishing a comprehensive policy on the creation of murals within the city. Most important to take away from the meeting was the fact that other municipalities known for murals have policies in place for the approval of this sort of public art and Trinidad is taking necessary steps to line themselves up with other similar policies.
“We need to be afforded the same opportunity to set down some kind of rules so it’s not just a free-for-all,” said Councilmember Rusty Goodall. “It’s being made to sound like we’re being criticized for spending our time trying to regulate this but, I don’t know anyone who’s not regulating this. You have to have a process.”
It was stated on multiple occasions that the city does want to see murals, and was also presented information supporting the economic and cultural benefit murals provide.
“People will absolutely visit for public artwork,” said Trinidad State Art instructor Ily Reiling, who came forward to present to council what other communities have done to establish functional policy surrounding mural creation.
“When I talked to the people in Durango, they said they saw a very noticeable increase in tourism, specifically road trip people going specifically to Durango, taking Instagram photos and posting them to social media saying this was a brand new happening town,” said Reiling. “I could not find any research that was negative in regards to murals.”
Ultimately, the basic process explained that is being considered by council would include an application that would have to be filed with the city. Depending on where the mural would be placed, that application would be put before the appropriate boards and commissions for evaluation. Following considerations from those boards and commissions, the City Council would make the final decision on giving approval.
“[Boards and commissions] would make a non-binding recommendation to council, and council would be the final arbiter,” said City Attorney Les Downs. “We’re not trying to define art or say what is pretty and what is not. We’re trying to have criteria for what is permissible in the historic district and what isn’t.”
Wayne Pritchard came forward to recommend to council that they create a committee specifically for the evaluation of murals. He also spoke to a sense of control the city should seek to hold over local public art.
“This is a very small town and we have a small historic district,” said Pritchard. “This could end up looking very trashy very quickly if we don’t have control on limits to the number of murals that are allowed to exist. Seems to me there has to be a stopping point. This committee should review all public art for approval.”
Pritchard believed council should take time to consider details in establishing a thorough policy.
“I don’t believe that this window of opportunity should drive this discussion,” said Pritchard. “There’s no reason that we need to have murals up this year, none at all. We need to make sure that this is solid and that we know what we’re doing. This is going to be in our face for 20 years.”
Mayor Rico also said they should take time to evaluate all sides of this topic before jumping into a policy.
“I’m kind of in the mindset of not rushing into this so we can do it right,” said Mayor Rico. “We’ll come back and talk again about the legal aspects that we have to consider. That’s going to be a whole other issue.”
Councilmember Anthony Mattie spoke to the differences between art within an enclosed space and art that is out in public for everyone to see.
“When art for the sake of art is displayed in a particular museum or a closed building, you can choose to go in there and peruse those works,” said Mattie. “You subject yourself to whatever you’re going to see. On the other hand if we have something on the side of a building, it becomes more of a concern of some sort of judicious application because then, it becomes open to everyone’s view whether they want to see it or not.”
Councilmember Erin Ogletree stated she saw the need and was in support of getting policy in place in order to make Trinidad more appealing as the town grows to attract more outsiders.
“We have a lot of government interest in Trinidad in what we’re trying to do as a city,” said Ogletree. “Not only are we focusing on historic tourism to get people to come here to see our buildings and enjoy our buildings; we’re also trying to get people to come here to be creative people and to invest in creative enterprises and then outdoor recreation. It isn’t just one thing that we’re trying to promote. I think that means messaging and murals are a lot about messaging and what’s important in this town. I think it’s a worthwhile process for us to be looking at.”
Council stated they would bring this forward again soon after all boards and commissions as well as staff had an opportunity to review the information provided. The Chronicle-News will continue to provide updates regarding this issue.