July 20, 2013 in City

Spokane City Hall mural’s removal brings criticism

By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

People pass a photographic mural in the first floor hall of Spokane City Hall on Friday. A similar mural in the basement of City Hall was removed last week.
(Full-size photo)

Art inspires passion.

And that’s not always good, especially if it involves scraping a 30-year-old photo from a basement wall in City Hall without following protocol.

Earlier this week, Jan Quintrall, the city’s director of business and development services, had some workers begin removing the wall-sized photo, which was purchased for $300 in 1981 along with seven other photos to go on each floor of the then-new City Hall.

“For six, seven, eight months, we researched if we could remove the murals and save them,” said Quintrall, noting that this would have involved cutting the wall out behind the photos, which were affixed like wallpaper. “I got some advice from the City Attorney’s Office, and we, under my direction, took that mural down.”

As the city’s official “muffin tan” paint began to dry, the emails and phone calls started to pour in and Council President Ben Stuckart threatened to hold a news conference on the affront. Quintrall said she understood her mistake.

“Now, after I’ve heard from half the arts community, I’ve realized there’s a process to follow,” Quintrall said.

That realization came in large part thanks to Karen Mobley, the city’s former arts director.

“They scraped it off with wallpaper remover,” Mobley said. “The appropriate process with an integrated piece of art is first to contact the artist and notify them. … Then there should be a request for de-accession from the Arts Commission.”

Randy Marburger, the photographer, could not be contacted Friday.

According to city code, the Arts Commission must review and make recommendations regarding “the removal, relocation, or alteration of existing municipal art work.”

Mobley admitted the photos may not be considered high art, with the multiple chips and dings they’ve accumulated over the years.

Still, rules are rules.

“Because they were accessioned into the art collection, they’re insured in the art collection and they’ve been represented as part of the art collection for the last 30 years, it would be appropriate to go through the de-accession process,” Mobley said.

Quintrall, who has taken on the task of freshening up City Hall after what she describes as years of neglect, said she learned her lesson.

“When we move to the next floor, we will take a very different path,” Quintrall said. “We will work with the Arts Commission.”

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