Council grants limited approval for street art

Robert Smith

By a vote of 4-1, with Mayor Roger Taylor dissenting, the Pawhuska City Council last week gave limited approval to a proposal from the Pawhuska Merchants Association to encourage street art projects such as the painting of gas meters and sidewalk cracks.

The council initially questioned why the Merchants Association was asking it for approval, and association President Bruce Malone said the city owned the sidewalk. The council eventually voted to allow the promotion of street art projects as long as the gas company and owners of commercial properties approved.

Ward 2 Councilor Jourdan Foran asked questions of Malone about details of the proposal. She asked if he knew yet which artists the Merchants Association would be approaching about doing street art. He said that he thought the association would talk with local artists, including Osage artists, but he didn’t yet have specific names.

Malone explained that the idea would be to have artists and business or property owners get together and arrange projects. The art would be “decent stuff, nothing profane,” he said, assuring councilors they wouldn’t be endorsing anything that might be upsetting. Malone said the project was still in the “thought stage” and he explained during an interview later that he hopes to offer the councilors more information during their next meeting.

Questions also arose about whether the Merchants Association was proposing for anyone to put paint on buildings and Malone initially answered that he didn’t anticipate that happening.

“No, we don’t intend to paint the buildings,” he said. Concerns were raised during the council session about whether paint on buildings might cause a problem when it comes to the downtown historic district.

City Attorney John Heskett said after the council meeting that he thought city government probably needed some expert advice about whether the painting of downtown buildings could endanger the downtown historic district.

Malone said in an interview that he’s a bit “perplexed” as to how the painting of buildings would take away from their historic value. He said that he thinks it would be good for the city to get some expert advice on the subject.

Jesse J. Worten III, a local attorney who has detailed experience with the subject of Pawhuska’s historic district designation, told the Journal-Capital he thinks the city needs to make up its mind what it’s doing with its historic district. Worten said if he had a client ask him about the historic district, he would tell them it’s not being enforced.