NORMAL — Town attorneys are attempting to claim victory in the lawsuit over the mural at 104 E. Beaufort St. in Normal.
Because the mural was a joint work, and because one of the artists responsible has waived his rights to it, the other artists have no right to prevent the town from altering it, attorneys Gregory Smith and Brian Day argue in a recent court filing.
"We don't agree because we do not think this was a 'joint work,'" William McGrath, a Chicago attorney representing some of the other artists, told The Pantagraph. "Each artist created his or her own work, and there was never an intent that every artist would lose the right to control his or her own work."
Day, the town's primary attorney, told The Pantagraph the argument is not the town's focus but "something we wanted to preserve for future arguments if the litigation goes a different direction."
He said Wayne Aldrich, the town's public works director, was the artist who signed the waiver, "a couple months ago."
"That has always been a backup argument for us," he said.
Thirteen artists who created parts of the mural filed suit to stop the town from destroying or otherwise changing the artwork as part of plans to demolish the building it was painted on. Their claim is based on the Visual Artists Rights Act, a federal law giving artists control over their work.
Normal has changed course from destroying the mural to moving it but has not said where it will land. The town has also taken steps to charge the artists for the move, expected to cost as much as $100,000.
"Right now we're in discussions with (developer) Bush (Construction) and our specialists on moving the mural, specifics and timing of that," said Day." retty much everybody involved in this is significant leaders in their field for this type of work."
The town and Bush plan to demolish 104, 106 and 108 E. Beaufort as part of construction for a five-story commercial development called Trail East, but that's been delayed as the town and artists continue to negotiate about the mural.
"Our recent settlement conference was not successful, but the artists are still open to trying to reach a reasonable settlement," said McGrath. "There is a status hearing with Judge (Jonathan) Hawley on Aug. 2."
Trail East is expected to open in late 2020. The building is slated to include a first-floor food and retail area, including food hall R Marketplace and Windy City Wieners; second-, third- and fourth-floor offices, including for Afni, Farnsworth Group and Illinois State University; and fifth-floor apartments.