Top 10 stories 2014: Clash over art strikes in the heart of town

In mid-May

The powers that be at Friday Harbor American Legion Post 163 aren’t known for shying away from a battle. If it’s uphill, maybe all the better. An uphill battle is precisely what the Legion found it had on its hands when it sought permission from the Town of Friday Harbor to paint a mural on the scruffy retaining wall below the back deck of its First
Street building.No. 10

In mid-May, the Town Council, in a 4-1 vote, denied a permit for the would-be 1,200-foot mural, an abstract design of an American flag depicted in bold colors of red, white and blue, citing provisions in the town sign ordinance allowing council members to make judgements based on aesthetics. The mural’s design drew criticism from several individuals, as well as the Port of Friday Harbor, which claimed its bold colors and abstract design would clash with the relaxed, historic atmosphere of the waterfront, undermine the goals that it, the town and other agencies are striving to achieve, and set a precedent for whatever works of art might follow.

Rather than modify its design, the Legion chose to contest the council’s decision and legality of its sign ordinance instead. The case has yet to be resolved. Meanwhile, the town is creating an advisory committee tasked with advising it on the cultivation, selection, acquisition and placement of public art, and expects to devote $10,000 a year to enrich the town’s artistic ambience.