Bill Murray Muralist Clashes With Murray Hill Merchants
A wall mural that’s set to be finished in the Murray Hill neighborhood this week — colorful patterns around the story-high mug of actor Bill Murray — is facing some pushback from area business owners.
The mural by artist Jason Tetlak would face Roosevelt Boulevard at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Plymouth Street, on a currently barren wall next to where the old Jones College building once stood.
“The Bill Murray – Murray Hill connection, there’s nothing there,” said nearby business owner Stacey Flores. “Maybe we could, you know, highlight the neighborhood or do something a little bit more enticing for people that are just driving by.”
According to Flores and others in the Murray Hill Merchants Association, Tetlak brought the idea of a Bill Murray mural to the association in December. He wanted the businesses to help pay for supplies.
Some of them were apprehensive because the empty lot in front of the wall is being leased, and the mural would eventually get covered up with a new building.
“Jason's thought was in the meantime, before any building goes up, he'd rather there be something beautiful on the wall, which is great,” Flores said. “Like, we definitely need something. They're welcoming people to Murray Hill.”
But when the Merchant’s Association suggested finding another local artist to paint a piece more reflective of the neighborhood, Tetlak said he wasn’t interested.
Tetlak created the Murray Hill Mural Project a few years ago to oversee public art projects. He’s also painted at least three of the murals himself. After the association pushed back on his latest proposal, he began a Kickstarter to fund the Murray mural and reached his goal of $2,500 in just over a week.
“It’s kind of quirky, it’s kind of goofy,” Tetlak said. “It’s not straight laced. It’s different. And that’s kind of what Murray Hill is to me.”
Meredith Corey-Disch, who owns the Edgewood Avenue restaurant and bakery Community Loaves, said, “More than just not being stoked about the content of the art, I'm just more disappointed about not having more people represented in our pretty diverse neighborhood. I don’t want to keep hearing from the same guy.”
A petition that started last week to oppose the mural had just over 100 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
Flores said Tetlak’s funding the project through Kickstarter prevented discussion among business owners.
“If the neighborhood voted and everybody loved it, and that's what they chose to put up, I'd be 100 percent behind it,” Flores said. “But the fact that it was done so behind everyone's back is really where I draw the line and have issues.”
“The process of putting up a mural is pretty simple – the building owner is the one who decides what they want to put on the wall,” Tetlak said. “The person who’s funding it gets to decide what the mural is going to be. So there was no vote taken or a poll put out there to see what other people thought because I was working in the confines of the permission I needed and the funding that I was getting.”
The business owners said they raised their concerns with Tetlak, but he said it was too far along in the process to make any changes to the piece.
“I do think it's a little bit of a lost cause, which is a bummer,” Corey-Disch said. “I worked with Jason, and I like Jason and I wish that he would just talk to those around them that care about the neighborhood.”
Tetlak said he did suggest a compromise: a rotation of murals, like you’d seen on the famed Wynwood walls in Miami.
“You know, they'll annually paint over murals and bring new artists in and refresh things,” he said — if the business owners want to pay for the refreshing.
Tetlak said he plans on having the Bill Murray mural finished by Saturday, Feb. 15.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.