{{featured_button_text}}

NORMAL — Artists have filed a lawsuit in hopes of preventing the destruction of a mural on the side of an uptown Normal building slated for demolition.

Thirteen of the 30 local artists behind the work filed the lawsuit this week in federal court in Peoria. It claims federal copyright law grants them “the right to prevent the destruction of their work,” said William McGrath, the Chicago lawyer representing the artists.

Because the artists had permission from the town of Normal to create the mural that has been on the west-side exterior wall of 104 E. Beaufort St. since 2011, they retain the right protect their work, even though they don’t own the building, McGrath said.

Under the Visual Artists Rights Act, the suit filed Wednesday asks for an injunction “prohibiting the destruction, distortion, mutilation or other modification of their artworks.”

Although there has been some discussion about moving the mural, McGrath said “it would be very difficult to remove it and relocate it to some appropriate place without — if not complete destruction — ... mutilating it or modifying it or causing partial destruction and so forth. The town is apparently looking into that.”

When plans for the five-story Trail East building were approved by the Normal City Council in October, McGrath sent the town and the developer, Bush Construction, a letter giving them notice that these artists have protective rights, but “they don’t agree with us.”

The town and Bush construction have been named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Mayor Chris Koos said Friday he is not at liberty to comment on the lawsuit because it is a legal matter, adding City Manager Pam Reece and the City Council are “evaluating the merits of the suit.”

"We will appropriately defend the town's position," Reece said.

Both parties have discussed a settlement, but McGrath said it hasn’t resulted in any action yet.

“The reason we filed the suit now is because we haven’t been able to achieve a settlement yet,” he said. “Hopefully that’s still something that might be achieved, but in the meantime … as we understood, demolition was being mentioned as starting in mid-May as soon as Illinois State University’s semester was over so we didn’t want to wait any longer before filing the suit.”

The demolition scheduled to begin in May will include 104 and 108 E. Beaufort St. on the northeast side of Uptown Circle.

If an injunction cannot be achieved, the artists will seek compensation for the violation of their right to prevent destruction, McGrath said.

According to the suit, the artists want to be awarded damages to compensate “for their financial losses and for the damage to their honor and reputation and for their humiliation, mental anguish, emotional distress and any other physical and mental injuries.”

The plaintiffs are identified in the suit as Janean Baird, Lianna Bankord, Elizabeth Beran, Erin Burnison, Brent Goken, Dick Goken, Ralston Scott Jones, Ed Madison, Brad Mosby, Lizbeth Ogiela-Scheck, Blair Valentine, Natalie Wetzel and Savannah Wetzel.

Coming soon: Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.