City Council Votes to Remove 'Offensive' Paint Memphis Murals


Controversial Elvis Presley mural painted on a public underpass wall
  • Controversial Elvis Presley mural painted on a public underpass wall

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to immediately remove six Paint Memphis murals they’ve deemed offensive in the past.

The resolution to scrub the murals came from Chairman Berlin Boyd in the middle of a heated discussion between Paint Memphis director Karen Golightly and a council committee.

Golightly said previously that the mayor asked her to try to “educate” council members on the subjects of the murals and the artists’ intentions.

As Golightly was going through an educational presentation, discussing each piece and its artists, Boyd cut her off, maintaining his position against the murals.

“I am still saying the same thing I said that my constituents and citizens of Memphis are saying,” Boyd said. “If you would have painted a tiger, a lion, a University of Memphis Tiger in Orange Mound and in North Memphis, you probably wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

Boyd continued, saying there must be a “disconnect” between his constituents and Paint Memphis.

“When they see what’s painted in Midtown versus what’s being painted in their communities, they bring this to us,” the chairman said. “We’re the first line of defense.”

Paint Memphis director Karen Golightly
  • Paint Memphis director Karen Golightly

Golightly then talked about the murals that were accidentally painted over by the city, ones she calls “positive.”

But before Golightly could finish her presentation, Boyd interrupted again saying that he doesn't like being “insulted in this committee.”

He said he doesn't need to be educated, as his and councilwoman Jamita Swearengen’s constituents have already expressed contempt over the murals.

“They don’t like what you painted on the wall, but I got a remedy for that,” Boyd before introducing the resolution to remove the six murals.

Per the resolution, the city has the right to remove any murals on public right-of-ways that were “deemed objectionable or offensive.”

The committee voted 10-0 in favor, with council members Martavius Jones and Worth Morgan abstaining from the vote.

As a result, Golightly said litigation might be next, as she says removing the murals is a violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which protects artists’ work that was lawfully done on public or private property.

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