Montague to set policy on public murals

  • The paint is peeling on this mural on Newton Street in Millers Falls, which has been cited by town officials as a case where better planning would have resulted in a longer-lasting piece of art. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2020 3:59:43 PM

MONTAGUE — Hoping to clarify common questions and problems locals encounter in creating murals, the town is developing a mural policy that is expected to be finalized in October.

The town does not currently have regulations on murals, which has led to many questions to the Planning and Conservation Department, said town Culture Coordinator Suzanne LoManto.

“We just were looking for clarity around this topic,” she said.

The policy will include provisions to ensure murals won’t degrade over time, and that they won’t seriously conflict with the style of their neighborhoods, especially in designated historic districts.

A painting of a baseball player in Millers Falls, on Newton Street, is an unfortunate case of a mural that has degraded over time due to poor planning. The paint is pealing, probably due to the location being too moist, LoManto said.

Those kinds of problems could probably be avoided through an approval process, she said.

Historic districts will probably be the only area with hard and fast restrictions.

While designing the policy, the Planning and Conservation Department specifically thought about maintaining the look of downtown Turners Falls, while still supporting public art in the area, LoManto said.

The policy will probably ban paintings on the fronts of historic buildings but will allow paintings in alleys and side streets, she said. It will also probably encourage building owners against painting over brick, because it is so central to the look of the area, she explained.

“I think this policy does a good job of finding that balance of supporting art and protecting architectural integrity,” commented Town Planner Walter Ramsey.

The subject matter of art on privately owned buildings cannot be restricted (except in special cases that would not qualify as protected speech), LoManto said, but the policy does attempt to ensure that neighborhood residents are supportive of new murals by requiring that they at least be notified of the plans.

The major ideas of the policy have been agreed on between the Selectboard and the Planning and Conservation Department, but the text is still being revised to reflect small suggestions from the Selectboard, LoManto said. Many local building owners have also been consulted and were supportive of the policy, she said.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-930-4231.

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