Unorthodox city murals have some residents miffed

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Public art installations like the one at the corner of Willett and Lamar Avenue have the streets talking.

It's not your typical artwork. It is catching the eye of art enthusiasts and raising the eyebrows of city leaders.

"Most people who have complained have not seen this in person," said Karen Golightly, executive director of the nonprofit organization Paint Memphis.

The organization recently completed a collection of murals. Painters volunteered their time and energy, painting on both private property and city property.

"It is not something that is flippant; it is very well thought out," Golightly said.

But the art installation meant to give the area a facelift has left some with serious concerns.

In executive session, city council members discussed their dislike for some of the more graphic murals like a zombie or an image of Elvis Presley with snakes traveling through his head.

Council members aren't the only ones disgruntled.

"I think it is disrespectful to neighborhoods in general to come and just put a bunch of stuff in a neighborhood and you have not consulted with anybody," said Gerard Harris, who lives nearby.

Harris is a teacher and muralist himself. He lives just blocks from the art installation. Although some of the pieces are nice, he says others need to come down.

"You have to filter things when you are around kids; it's not censorship," Harris said.

Golightly says Paint Memphis works with specific guidelines. Artists cannot paint imagery of nudity, drugs, or gang activities, or obscenities, but she does not want to limit artistic expression.

"Because they dedicate their time, their energy and their talent, I don't feel I can tell them what to paint," Golightly said.

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