The wrap-around mural on Andy’s Bar can stay, after the Denton City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to overturn a previous ruling that the side facing the Square wasn’t “appropriate” and needed to be painted over.
Council member Paul Meltzer was sole opponent to setting aside a nearly year-old recommendation from the Historic Landmark Commission to remove the front portion of the mural, which covers all sides of the building. A few people came to speak in defense of the city’s historic preservation rules Tuesday night, but more came to defend the mural.
Titled Band on the Run, the mural was painted by local artist Dan Black in two phases. The second phase triggered the controversy, since building co-owner Eric Pulido didn’t get the commission’s final approval in advance for finishing the work.
Longtime resident Ken Gold reminded council members that art often breaks the rules, in one way or another.
“Which gets to live: the art or the rules?” Gold asked.
Council member Deb Armintor said she didn’t want to see art destroyed to penalize an act, namely Pulido’s decision to finish the mural before he secured approval for the project.
The council flirted briefly with the possibility of allowing the mural to stay but fining Pulido. City Attorney Aaron Leal told them that although the city code provides for penalties, they are criminal, not civil.
In other words, once the council approved the mural, the criminal violation would go away and the mural would become legal.
Council member Keely Briggs gave Pulido a chance to address the criticism that he had flaunted the process meant to protect the city’s historic buildings.
“What do you say to those who say you can do whatever you want and get forgiveness later?” Briggs asked.
“I respect the process and I appreciate the conversations that this has sparked,” Pulido answered, referring, in part, to comments made about the controversy on social media. Pulido previously served on the city’s Historic Landmark Commission.
He said the work was in line with the city’s guidelines for historic buildings and the paint did not have an adverse effect on the building’s architecture.
“This building was dilapidated,” Pulido said. “It was stucco. It wasn’t brick.”
Removing the front portion of the mural would compromise the art’s integrity, he added.
During public comments, former council member Linnie McAdams said it wasn’t unreasonable for Pulido to believe that the project would be approved, given that much larger segments of the mural had already been approved on the north- and east-facing sides.
In addition, the commission itself split over how to handle review and approval of the south- and front-facing sides, which triggered Mayor Chris Watts’ decision to overturn the commission, too.
“If the sides don’t ruin it [the historic value], that bit on the front doesn’t ruin it,” McAdams said.
Longtime resident Willie Hudspeth called it another way. Black recently painted a small community mural on Hudspeth’s business.
“The colors bring out a happy feeling to me,” Hudspeth said.