Several Johnson Village Trustees hesitant about mural plans
JOHNSON, Vt. (WCAX) - Johnson’s beautification committee has approval from the select board to put a mural on the side of the garage. It’s intended to make artwork more accessible, while signaling an inclusive community.
However, some of the village trustees say they don’t know enough about the piece to decide whether it meets that goal.
“It’s a mutually owned building, which is operated by the town,” Johnson select board chair Beth Foy said.
The select board approved a mural to go on the side of Johnson’s town garage last month. The building overlooks the Rail Trail and Old Mill Park, meaning it would be highly visible.
Foy says they informed the village trustees as a courtesy, not expecting any issues, but some want a vote on the artwork.
“There’s a general historical handshake understanding between the town and village where each of the municipalities does have some latitude to independently work on their respective buildings, if not used by both entities,” Foy explained.
Village Trustee B.J. Putvain reached out to Channel 3, saying this understanding only applied to general building maintenance, not artwork.
“Art that we have no clue what it means or represents isn’t part of the agreement. This whole thing could have been resolved if just one committee member came to our meeting to explain the piece,” Putvain said in an email. “We have a responsibility to our constituents and putting something up that no one can tell us what it represents isn’t something we can just do.”
The mural is being done by NVU grad and local artist, Finn Watsula. Johnson’s beautification committee chair, Kyle Nuse, says the mural is part of the committee’s goal to beautify the area with things like flowers and art.
Nuse says this is the first time they’ve gotten any pushback.
“Art is sort of interpreted in the eye of the beholder, Nuse said. “We named it the ‘Humans of Johnson’ because it really is representational of diversity in different sections of our town.”
Village Trustees initially expressed concern at their July 11th. In draft meeting minutes, one even went as far as saying “it ought to represent our community and not just be a bunch of cartoon characters.”
Others were excited for it to move forward, saying it represented a diverse and inclusive community. Foy said the Village Trustees haven’t formally communicated their concerns to the town select board.
“We have had some areas we didn’t agree up front,- but we have discussed them together, so I am confident we can come to a mutual conclusion,” Foy said.
Putvain said the mural will be on their next meeting agenda. The trustees are not totally opposed to the mural, but hope to have more information before voting either way. He says hopefully a member of the Beautification Committee will be able to attend and clarify the arts meaning directly to them. Their next meeting is set to be at 6 p.m. on August 8th.
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