Park City business group ‘kind of blindsided’ by Black Lives Matter mural on Main Street
The group that represents businesses in the Main Street core was unaware City Hall planned to allow artists to create large social justice murals on the asphalt in early July and said the municipal government moved forward with the works without gathering opinions from the organization.
The leadership of the Historic Park City Alliance outlined the concerns in a one-page memo sent to Park City’s elected officials late last week, shortly after the murals appeared. The memo from the Historic Park City Alliance is especially noteworthy since the organization and City Hall traditionally have been seen as having a strong relationship.
The memo says businesses on Main Street were “caught off guard” as people called, wrote emails or made comments in person. It also says City Hall and the Historic Park City Alliance have “worked in concert” on other issues like the decision to largely pedestrianize Main Street on Sundays in the summer.
“The installation of a painted mural on Main Street this past weekend did not consider any input. It is understandable if the art was in chalk and temporary for Independence Day weekend,” the memo says, explaining that under that scenario the murals would have been covered under the permit for the pedestrianized Sundays. “However, the City expended funds, and a painted mural remains on the street for the next few months.”
The memo says the “actions this weekend are a continuation of a prior trend that excludes input from essential voices.” The Historic Park City Alliance says the work on the murals reduced the space available to pedestrians on the Main Street roadway. One of the goals of the pedestrian days is to create more opportunities for social distancing as the area continues to attempt to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Main Street is car-free to allow for additional room for guests to feel comfortable. Guests were diverted back to the narrow sidewalks during the painting,” the memo says, explaining that the Historic Park City Alliance “could have informed the merchants and provided talking points for employees.”
The memo from the Historic Park City Alliance was drafted in response to the process that led to the creation of a giant Black Lives Matter mural and other works on Main Street with a social justice theme. Officials said the murals were covered in the permitting of the Sunday pedestrian zone.
The murals immediately drew attention, and it appeared at the time there was not broad prior community knowledge of the plans to create them. Vandals, meanwhile, targeted two of the murals in the days after they were created in an act that was widely publicized. Repairs to the damaged murals were made last weekend, and the Park City Police Department launched an investigation into the vandalism.
The memo says the Historic Park City Alliance concerns are based on the process that led to the murals rather than “the art or message.”
The president of the board of directors of the Historic Park City Alliance, Rhonda Sideris, said in an interview the organization appreciates City Hall attempting innovations this year along Main Street. In the case of the murals, there was not communication between City Hall and the business group, she said.
“We didn’t hear about it. We were kind of blindsided,” Sideris said, adding, “And it just happened.”
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Park City tightly regulates the number of conventional chain businesses that are allowed on Main Street, but there is space for another chain as a 7-Eleven readies to open in a building toward the middle of the street.