Dear Friend of Murals,

We are in the wonderful position of advising the City of Portland’s legal department, Mayor Potter and City Council members as they begin the process of crafting new language for the city’s sign code in regard to large-scale (over 200 sq ft), outdoor murals.

Clear Channel Mural Trial Results

Because of Judge Marcus’ Opinion of May 2007 at the close of the Clear Channel v City Portland trial, the City now has the judge’s directive to correct this long-standing code issue and to draw a distinction between commercial signs and murals.

To better make our suggestions known to City leaders, Portland Mural Defense came up with a short survey for muralists & mural supporters so that we can learn your thoughts on just what this new sign code should entail.

Already, some City Bureaus (Planning, etc.) have suggested that the difference between signs and murals is merely a mechanical one: ie. billboard signs use photographic techniques and are printed on vinyl, therefore, murals cannot be done on vinyl using digital techniques. Signs usually are positioned high on poles to attract the attention of traffic, so murals should only occupy the wall space from 14 feet up, down to the sidewalk level.

And so on.

If adopted, this type of legal distinction would severely limit the range of creative approaches available to muralists- for now, and far into the future!!

Instead, the true distinction between a sign and a mural is in intent.

Murals have a different purpose, use different processes (they are collaborative, and community-minded) and have different financial compensation arrangements than signs do.

In the Clear Channel v City of Portland trial, longtime muralist Joe Cotter was a pro se, third party intervenor and brought artists and members of the arts education community into the courtroom to testify on “what is a mural” for the first time in the case’s nine year history. Additionally, John Frohnmayer (former head of the NEA) also testified about the obvious differences between art and signage.

The Time Is Now!

Our Portland City Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of Tracy Reeve, Deputy City Attorney (who was lead attorney for the City in the Clear Channel trial), must make a recommendation to Mayor Potter before the end of next week (Friday, September 28th) on what the new sign code law will include. She is eager to hear from artists.


Your comments on this issue are crucial. We have only a few days to advise her and have an effect on what she will tell Mayor Potter about murals.

After next week a lengthy legislative process will follow that will include meetings and public hearings (details still to come on that phase). Stay tuned!

What You Can Do Complete the Portland Public Mural Survey now!

We’ll use the data to better inform ourselves about the mural arts community’s concerns and to advise City Council.

Write to City Council, describing your own experiences with murals and why they are an important avenue of expression.

Write directly to:

Deputy City Attorney Tracy Reeve, City of Portland Attorney’s Office
1221 SW 4th Ave. Room 430, Portland, OR 97204
e-mail: treeve@ci.portland.or.us

4) Share the Mural Survey with other artists and interested friends. If you have a blog or other news medium, feel free to post the survey and background material.


Portland Mural Defense, Steering Committee – Joe Cotter, Mark Meltzer, Joanne Oleksiak