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Mural Deemed 'Graffiti' after 15 Years

Thursday, March 26, 2015

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For 15 years, the exterior of Murv Jacob's art gallery has been adorned with a colorful mural bearing a positive message.

Overnight, however, the work has been punted into the category of graffiti, and officials in Tahlequah, OK, are ordering Jacobs to get rid of it.

City officials have now deemed the artwork “graffiti,” according to a report by News On 6.

Jacob told the news outlet that he recently received a violation notice from city’s code enforcement division.

Murv Jacob and mural
screenshot via News on 6

An Oklahoma artist and building owner Murv Jacob has been told to remove a mural he commissioned or otherwise approved 15 years ago.

Jacob was told to remove the “graffiti” from the side of the building or face hundreds of dollars in fines, according to the report.

The city’s compliance officer did not respond this week to a request for more information. It was unclear whether Jacob would contest the violation.

'Positive As Could Be'

The mural, painted in 2000, includes this quote: “Positive energy activates constant elevation.”

Jacob says he remembers when a couple of men “came from across the country to paint the mural” on the side of his gallery.

"They're artists, you know, they had a positive message, all of them had a positive-as-could-be message," Jacob told the news bureau.

Austin, TX, graffiti
Senorelroboto / CC By-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

It is estimated that U.S. cities spend between $12 billion and $15 billion a year to fight graffiti.

The report says Jacob has 10 days to remove the mural or face a fine of $200 a day.

Supporters of the mural have posted a petition to save it on Change.org.

Art v. Graffiti

As of Friday morning, the petition to “[r]emove graffiti code violations for Murv Jacob and allow his mural to remain as is" had 47 signatures toward its goal of 100.

"If we review the dictionary it will prove that said 'graffiti' meets the requirements to be deemed a mural and should be allowed to remain as is," said the petition.

The petition cites a definition of a mural as a "painting or other work of art executed directly on a wall." Graffiti, on the other hand, is defined as "writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place."

Code Language

A city ordinance prohibits graffiti on “public or private property within the city,” adding that graffiti “constitutes a public nuisance to the detriment of the city and its inhabitants and visitors.”

“It is unlawful for any responsible person to maintain graffiti that has been placed upon any surface within that person’s control, possession, or ownership when the graffiti is visible from a public street, property or right of way,” the code states.

The code defines “graffiti” as “[a]ny unauthorized inscription, word, figure, picture or design that is sprayed, marked, posted, pasted, or otherwise affixed, drawn, or painted on any surface of a public or private property.”

It is estimated that U.S. cities spend between $12 billion and $15 billion each year to fight graffiti.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Artists; Building owners; Design; Enforcement; Government; Graffiti; Murals

Comment from Jennie Armstrong, (3/27/2015, 7:13 AM)

Thats funny when the city code Chapter 10 paragraph 10-205 says it is legal if you have consent of the owner of the building.

Comment from Sarah Geary, (3/27/2015, 8:25 AM)

Typical U.S. Policy: thieves running amuck on the streets, murder, drunken driving and associated deaths, domestic violence, starving people, homelessness, hate crimes, and we're worried about wall paint and the *positive* message it's sending. Leave him be.

Comment from Rodney White, (3/27/2015, 9:21 AM)

I would be willing to bet that those who find the "artwork" to be objectionable are newcomers to Tahlequa. Funny that the painting should be there for 15 years and nobody says anything. Sounds like the same crowd who would build a house near an airport and then complain about the noise..

Comment from Ron Cros, (3/27/2015, 11:31 AM)

Time to vote the city officials OUT!!

Comment from Kenneth Kent, (3/28/2015, 11:11 AM)

This article reminds me of a piece that I am writing about the Graffiti or artwork on Railroad cars . Is it Art or Graffiti. In many cases it is just Graffiti but there are others that could pass for Art. I haven't finished the piece yet but this just adds insight to the issue. I'm sure others have seen these painted railroad cars and wonder the same thing. There are times I wish I had a camera to capture the images that are appealing the others I'll pass on.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/2/2015, 11:33 AM)

It was authorized by the owner. Therefore it is not graffiti.

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