After months of stagnation
, the Leesburg Town Council has finally approved an art project on the wall of the Loudoun Street town parking garage.
In a 4-1 vote at the Feb. 11 Town Council meeting, members approved a tile mosaic display on the wall.
In a presentation to the Town Council Tuesday night, the Commission on Public Art explained the project. Nearly 4,000 tiles, each with inscribed with personal messages or art, would adorn the wall. From a distance, those tiles would form a larger mural. Each tile could be purchased for $10. Unlike a mural painted directly on the garage, the tiles could be mounted on a separate backing board and then placed on the garage.
COPA recommended that the council tap artist Russ Bennett of Vermont spearhead the project.
Councilman Tom Dunn, who has long advocated the town try to sell the parcel of land in front of the garage, voted against the project.
“I did like the idea of the mural and the community involvement and it sounds like a neat concept to do at another location,” Dunn said. “But I feel that location would be better served as an economic development tool, hopefully to sell the land to someone who would develop the land for business uses.”
Dunn argued that a mural would deter any business owners from making an attempt to purchase the land, which is estimated to be worth $400,000.
“Putting a mural on this location is just a way of preventing its consideration for other uses,” Dunn said. “It just solidifies it will always be a non-business use.”
The debate regarding the town garage wall -and the parcel of land in front of it- have long been the subject of debate.
In the 90s, several attempts at buildings were aborted after cost concerns.
After deciding in 2008 to accept proposals to utilize the space for art, the council has yet to approve a design. The most recent failure was in October, when council members rejected the commission-recommended mural, designed by Denver-based David Ocelotl in a 4-3 vote. Those against the mural dismissed it as “cartoonish.”
Mayor Kristen Umstattd, Vice-Mayor Dave Butler and council members Kelly Burk and Marty Martinez all voted for the project, while Katie Hammler and Kevin Wright were both absent.
“I think it will engage people who live here, and I think they'll be proud of that they did,” Umstattd said. “I think they'll want to bring people downtown and show their friends what they did.”
With its approval, the Council authorized $55,000 be spent on the project, which includes the $15,000 fee to Bennett.