Artists of the Uptown mural have filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Normal and developer Bush Construction in hopes of saving the artwork.
The lawsuit was filed April 24. The town has shown interest in redeveloping Uptown and plans to demolish some of the buildings in the area. One of these would include the mural, painted on a building that is over 100 years old on 104 E. Beaufort St.
The lawsuit claims that the demolition would go against a federal copyright law — the Visual Artists Rights Act. This law allows artists of certain types of artwork to protect their art from destruction.
“We filed suit because the public statements made by the town suggest that they were interested in getting the demolition project started [once] Illinois State University’s [spring 2019] semester was over. Most likely sometime in the middle of May,” Chicago lawyer William McGrath said. “We thought that we needed to file suit now.”
McGrath represents 13 of the artists who painted the mural. The Town of Normal permitted these artists to display their artwork on this building in 2011.
The lawsuit states that the town did not obtain permission from the artists when they decided to launch their commercial development plan which includes demolishing the building the mural is on.
“We are evaluating the lawsuit and will appropriately defend the town’s position to move forward with this major economic development project,” City Manager Pamela Reece stated.
Reece adds that the project involves a developer investing over $30 million into Uptown. This will provide jobs, costumers and outside investors to the community and help support local businesses.
The Town of Normal has also suggested the possibility of moving the mural. McGrath adds that the mural would have to be moved and displayed in a proper setting.
The goal of the lawsuit is to prevent the destruction of the mural.
“If that can be done by a removal or a proper display of it, that would be good,” McGrath said. “If that is not feasible, we don’t think the mural should be destroyed.”
McGrath adds that if the mural is destroyed, the artists “are entitled to some compensation for the violation of their rights under the Visual Artists Rights Act.”
Now that the lawsuit has been filed, the town must file an answer to it, which has not yet been done.
“We haven’t received any kind of response from them yet,” McGrath said.