Bloomington board of public works from left: Jennifer Lloyd, Elizabeth Karon, Kyla Cox Dexard.
From the Turning Point application to paint a street mural.
For now at least, a proposed mural that says “All Lives Matter” will not be painted on Kirkwood Avenue just west of Indiana Avenue in downtown Bloomington.
Bloomington’s three-member board of public works has unanimously denied a special events application from Turning Point USA at Indiana University, to paint such a mural on the weekend of April 7 and 8.
The denial came at the board’s regular Tuesday meeting, after about 20 minutes worth of public comment, all of it opposed to the approval of the application to paint the mural.
The public commentary in opposition was based mostly on the fact that the “All Lives Matter” slogan is associated with opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
When it came time for a vote, the board didn’t deliberate on the question.
But when the item was put in front of the board, the basis for the denial was laid out by city attorney Mike Rouker: The proposed mural is for permanent or semi-permanent art (intended to last more than seven days), and it includes “speech.”
The inclusion of “words, letters, numbers, or universally recognized symbols, or logos of any kind” for a permanent art installation put the proposed ALM mural in conflict with the city’s new policy on art installations by private entities in the public right of way.
(Jan. 4, 2023) The word “vote” as written by Thomas Westgård on the street at 7th and Madison streets ( Jan. 4, 2023)
(Jan. 5, 2023) An apparent attempt to wash away the chalk-based compound.
(Jan. 13, 2023) After about 0.75 inches of rain on Jan. 12, 2023 as measured by NWS at Monroe County’s airport.
Text of letter received by Thomas Westgård on Jan. 13, 2023 from the city of Bloomington.
Area resident Thomas Westgård has been fined $500 by Bloomington after writing “VOTE” on a city street.
Westgård sent The B Square a photo of the letter that he reported receiving from the city on Friday.
The letter, signed by Bloomington public works director Adam Wason, states: “On January 4, 2023, at the intersection of Madison and 7th Street in Bloomington, you spray-painted the word ‘VOTE’ in the street.”
The city of Bloomington has now responded to an application submitted in December by Indiana University student Kyle Reynolds for the installation of a mural on Kirkwood Avenue that says “All Lives Matter.”
Based on the city’s response, and the litigation backdropping the request, if Reynolds is eventually allowed to install his mural, it looks somewhat unlikely that it would be on the requested date of April 3, 2023.
It was under a court order that the city’s new policy on private art in the public right-of-way was developed.
That order came in connection with a lawsuit that Reynolds filed, after being denied permission to paint a mural in 2021. The court found that the city’s refusal in 2021 to allow Reynolds to paint his mural likely amounted to viewpoint discrimination, and issued a preliminary injunction.
For Westgård, it was the right time and day to write “vote” on the street, because a status conference was on a federal court calendar for about an hour later, for a case that involves the right of private individuals to install art in Bloomington’s public right-of-way.
A federal judge has ordered that by Jan. 2, 2023, Bloomington must develop and disseminate a policy on private art installations in the public right-of-way.
The court’s order came as a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by an Indiana University student, after Bloomington said he could not install a street mural with the phrase “All Lives Matter.”
The “All Lives Matter” slogan is associated with opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Under the court order, Bloomington has to allow the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Kyle Reynolds and the Indiana University Chapter of Turning Point USA, to apply for installation of a mural under the new policy.
Under the new policy, the previously rejected mural might be allowed, but only if it is “temporary art”—which means it would be expected to last longer than seven days.
The policy would ban “speech”—which is defined under the policy to include letters, words, and other universally recognized symbols—for any private art installation that is expected to remain in place for longer than five days within the public right-of-way.
It was an Indiana University student’s proposed mural, with the words “All Lives Matter,” followed by Bloomington’s rejection of that mural, that led a federal judge to order the city to develop the new policy.