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Art as an ad?

Boucher Jewelers has proposed putting this large diamond ring from May's Iris Festival Parade outside their store. (KEIZERTIMES/ Craig Murphy)
Boucher Jewelers has proposed putting this large diamond ring from May’s Iris Festival Parade outside their store. (KEIZERTIMES/ Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Could public art be construed as illegal advertising in Keizer?

That question has come up regarding a proposed piece of art for Boucher Jewelers, located at 4965 River Road North.

Lore Christopher, chair of the Keizer Public Arts Commission (KPAC), said the longtime business had a float with a large ring in May’s Iris Festival Parade and would like to now have that artwork in front of its business. The issue has been discussed at the last two KPAC meetings.

“It’s really kind of cool,” Christopher said at last month’s KPAC meeting. “It has a shaft, big diamonds and prongs that hold the diamonds. It’s a cool sculpture. I told them it could not advertise their business; it’s just a giant diamond ring with an eight-foot base. They want to put it on their property as public art.”

City Councilor Amy Ripp, the council liaison to KPAC, opined the issue needed to be decided elsewhere.

“I think it needs to go to council,” Ripp said. “There needs to be an interpretation of what’s art.”

Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer, expanded upon that.

“What Councilor Ripp is concerned about is getting too far down the road and then having legal issues raised,” Brown said. “She wants a policy decision. You might want to cross all the t’s.”

Ripp summed up her main concern.

“I think it will be seen as advertising, not as art,” Ripp said.

Christopher didn’t see the issue, but fellow KPAC member Kim Steen did.

“This committee was formed so council didn’t have to decide about the interpretation of art,” Christopher said. “(City Attorney) Shannon Johnson told me about the murals we can have anything on it as long as there’s no business name, slogan or contact information. I’ll fight that battle. Will the ring bring more business to Boucher? I hope so. Will having a dog (sculpture) bring more business for Kim Steen’s dog grooming business? I hope so.”

Steen joined Ripp and Brown in worrying about issues down the road.

“It seems like a slippery slope,” Steen said. “Are you going to have a pizza place with a big pizza in front? It seems like it could go crazy.”

In a June 22 e-mail to KPAC members, Johnson noted the conflict with city code.

“The (public art) program is for art work, not for advertising,” the city attorney wrote in part. “The main reason the murals and the sculptures can be allowed without violating the sign code is that the city (not an individual) has approved and placed the artwork for the public’s enjoyment. For example, if a mural was proposed for this location, it would be inappropriate to allow depictions of diamonds or watches on the mural. We also do not allow logos for the same reason. If this was permitted in this location, I would be concerned that the (art program) would slowly be transformed into a disguised marketing program.”

Like others, Johnson also mentioned the precedent that would be set with the ring sculpture.

“If this request is allowed, I think the city would have difficulty turning down other businesses that wish to have this type of advertising,” Johnson wrote. “I am concerned that the sculpture/mural program could be challenged if we turn down a future request if this request is granted.”