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City should revisit public display ordinance

August 2, 2011
Marshall Independent

Barb Hawes was reaching out to the community. The Marshall Police Department was doing its job. In the end, rules ruled.

Hawes stuck more than 70 handmade pinwheels in the ground at Liberty Park on Friday morning, the culmination of a project six months in the making. She wanted people to not only see them, but stop and take one, no charge, in remembrance of someone they've lost or a loved one they miss. But the second she stuck a pinwheel in the ground, she broke the rules - a city ordinance prevents anyone from displaying anything on public property without a permit or approval.

"I?recognize I didn't ask for permission - the city has to do what the city has to do,"?Hawes said. "I knew that when you do public art you need to ask permission. I knew that. I don't want to start a battle. I think guerilla art should do no harm, it should be temporary, not like graffiti, and be something that draws the community together."

Since Hawes didn't get approval, the Marshall Police Department removed the pinwheels early Friday afternoon. A Marshall Police officer said Friday it's a shame they had to be removed and hoped Hawes could find something constructive to do with the 70 or so pinwheels that didn't find a home before they were removed.

There was no shouting or protesting Friday; everything was done in a peaceful fashion and handled as well as it could've been. And Hawes, while disappointed, wasn't shocked the art was removed. But this was one case the city should've looked the other way and bent the rules. Hawes wasn't selling anything, she simply wanted to do something to bring the community together. Her intentions seemed pure.

"If she'd have brought it forward we would've permitted it,"?Marshall?Community Services Director Harry Weilage said. "We can't have people just putting stuff out there on public property or in the parks. Where do you draw the line? There comes a time when you gotta make a call and we did our due diligence; we checked on it for four hours to see if she had asked permission. We work with different groups all the time on things like this and you need to ask permission."

The city shouldn't be perceived as the enemy on this one, but it would be worth its time to look into possibly amending the ordinance to allow people like Hawes to post an innocent, well-meaning display without having to get permission. Give them a 24-hour window of display time, or something to that effect. Hawes' heart was in the right place and she designed the project so as not to leave a footprint. She ended up paying for her decision to not seek permission to display it, but then again, she knows that's the essence of guerilla (or street) art, so she can live with it.

"I?took a chance,"?Hawes said. "I don't see anybody in the city as my enemy. If it sparks a discussion about public art, that's good. Maybe as a community we can have that discussion."

Maybe. At least then the pinwheel project will have paid off.



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