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American Legion appealing mural decision, not suing Friday Harbor Council | Letter
First, I do not officially speak for the American Legion in Friday Harbor, but as an American, although I have been a legion member and officer for over 25 years.
The American Legion is not suing the Town of Friday Harbor as is being portrayed in the local papers, both online and print. They are merely appealing a decision made by the Town Council as allowed by law.
At the crux of this matter is a mural on our concrete foundation wall facing the Port of Friday Harbor. This wall was designed, constructed and is owned by the American Legion Post 163, circa 1998 according to standards set by the town.
We consider our large wall as a canvas that can be used to illustrate art. Nothing has ever been presented to establish this present mural as a “permanent” installation as that would be unrealistic. It surely will be a rotating display according to local artists ideas. In the past we have even entertained a project involving tiles made by school children, likened to the Spring Street Landing.
The Town Council disapproved our design due to the subject matter: the flag of the United States of America. The Port Commissioner has agreed.
It is not the subject matter of the mural that is the issue, as the town and others object to, even though our opening display celebrates the 200th anniversary of our National Anthem, penned by Francis Scott Key in 1814. It is our right to utilize our property, without advertising, in a manner that we feel appropriate and permitted under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States that we are expressing.
Regarding allegations that the town had assured us that just “toning down the colors” could cure the problems – that is far from the truth. During discussions with town officials Mike Bergstrom and Administrator Duncan Wilson, it was revealed that even if we painted Lolita with goldfish swimming around her, there is no guarantee that that design would be approved either.
So this is not a question of subject matter, strictly rights as guaranteed by our founders, and the appreciation of art to share. Art, like all art, speaks for itself. The viewer, like all viewers, can listen for themselves. The purpose of art is to evoke an expression, an impression and stimulate the soul of the viewer.
Guess we have already done that and have not even put brush to canvas.