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Artists: Uptown Normal mural's fate not settled, lawsuit should continue
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U.S. District Court

Artists: Uptown Normal mural's fate not settled, lawsuit should continue

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NORMAL — A delay until next spring to remove a mural painted on a building slated for demolition does not eliminate the controversy at the heart of a federal lawsuit filed by some of the artists, their lawyers said.

The lawsuit was filed in April by 13 of the 50 artists who painted the mural in 2011 on the side of a town-owned building at 104 E. Beaufort St.

Citing the federal Visual Artists Rights Act, the artists asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria to stop the town from altering the mural without their consent.

The artists are seeking denial of a motion for summary judgment requested in November by the town of Normal and developer Bush Construction. The defendants said "the court has no current controversy to decide" since the town plans to move the mural.

The mural site is one of three buildings at 104, 106 and 108 E. Beaufort to be cleared for the five-story Trail East building. 

The demolition has been postponed twice and now is scheduled for spring.

"The controversy right now is just as present as it when plaintiffs filed suit," William McGrath, one of the artists' attorneys, stated in a written response filed Dec. 18. "The short further delay in the defendants' execution of their plans to remove the mural does not eliminate the controversy at the heart of this cause."

Town corporation counsel Brian Day previously said the town doesn't need the artists' agreement to move the mural, adding, "Right now we are looking at a lot behind the city's water department." 

That's one block north of the mural's current location, he added. 

The town and Bush argued ("the artists) had the option to file for an injunction to stop us from moving (the mural) and the court gave them a (July 1) deadline and they chose not to file for an injunction." 

Without that injunctive relief, "there is nothing here for the court to decide," the town and Bush contend. "Perhaps there might be a claim if the mural is damaged or destroyed in the eventual move, but this claim is entirely hypothetical."

"There is nothing hypothetical about this controversy," McGrath stated in the written response. "Whether the acts of the defendants (town and developer) in either destroying or relocating the mural will result in liability involve many factual issues such as the defendants' intent, their degree of recklessness, the location of the removal, the appearance of the mural after removal and whether there is prejudice to the artists' honor or reputation."

McGrath also contended that the decision not to seek a preliminary injunction does not waive a party's rights to proceed on the merits of the case.

If the lawsuit is dismissed now, "the town would appear to be under no commitment to refrain from demolishing the mural, which was its stated preference prior to the lawsuit," wrote McGrath. 

The artists want the court to require two to three weeks' notice before the mural is removed, moved or destroyed so a court hearing can take place beforehand.

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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