Few rules on mural placement on Saugerties’ historic buildings

What’s art? What art can or should be regulated in the village of Saugerties historic district? Local artist Kelli Bickman, who owns a studio in the Odd Fellows Hall, recently asked the village’s historic review board (HRB) about what permission was needed to hang a student-created mural on a building in the historic district.

That proved a tough question to answer. Review board chair Jonathan Shapiro, speaking at an August 23 meeting, said no one quite knew how to handle it.
“I called the state [historic preservation] office for some guidance,” Shapiro said. “They said they’re not concerned with murals.”

“Our option is not to touch this issue,” Shapiro told board members.

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Bickman had asked permission to hang the mural on the side of the Antiques Center Building.

“The state said the building would outlast the mural,” Shapiro said.

This past spring’s repair of the mural on the side of the Reis Building was never approved by anyone, Shapiro said. “They just came in, painted and left.”

Board members said that the village’s code enforcement officer, Eyal Saad, should have a say over art on historic buildings if anyone should.
“But it we get involved in deciding what art is and what and where it can go — we shouldn’t get involved in that slippery slope,” said village trustee Terry Parisian, liaison to the historic review board.

The mural was an artistic interpretation of life in Saugerties, board members said.

Board members could see only one problem with hanging a mural on a historic building. That would be how it was fastened to the building. How it’s hung should be up to Saad, they said. It should be done in a safe manner so it won’t fall off and hit a pedestrian, and so the fastening system will not damage the building.

The HRB said its policy on art murals was to have no policy other than that such murals cannot cover up old signs that have been painted on the buildings, or historic windows, or bits of historic facing on the building.

Bickman will also be painting a mural on the side of M&T Bank. Shapiro and Parisian noted that mural would be temporary. The side of the bank has a product on it that deteriorates every few years, and when it goes so will the mural.

“So long as the hanging of the mural doesn’t impact the integrity of the building, it’s all good,” Shapiro said.

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