There’s a Heated Discussion Over Downtown Businesses and Their Murals

The issue over painting murals on Mandan businesses is heating up social discussion on, and offline.

Bismarck has a similar ordinance that governs what can and can’t be on a mural and where they can be painted.

KX News sat down with businesses on both sides of the river to see what the process is like, and to find out if they think their decor should be up to city government.

Rejuvenation Place Co-owner Austin Berger shares, “They have to draw a line somewhere obviously, or else you could have people buying buildings and putting up art of political campaigns or you know, they could take any kind of turn that they wanted. But they’re taking it a little bit too far, I feel like.”

Adam and Austin Berger recently went through a hearing process with the City of Bismarck to ultimately keep a mural they painted at their family-owned medical spa.

Berger explains, “We were kind of bold, and we just went ahead and did it. And then the city contacted us and said that ignorance isn’t an excuse, and just because you didn’t know the rules, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can get off with it or whatever, you can have it.”

Mandan’s City Planner told us the Lonesome Dove mural is technically a sign, so it falls under the sign ordinance. And right now, that ordinance does not allow painted signs. He says he doesn’t see why the rules couldn’t be changed one day, but for now, all businesses fall under the same regulations.”

People on social media also asked questions about the Bearscat mural. It was painted prior to the current guidelines, and its approval actually led to those guidelines being developed in Mandan, last August.

Bearscat Bakehouse Owner Kevin Cavanagh shares, “It was an ugly building. I’ll be the first person to say something: it was a grey brick building. Anytime you can bring art to the community, it’s cool.”

Cavanagh says businesses should be able to liven up their exterior as they see fit.

He adds, “Obviously it needs to be tasteful, so there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.”

The Bismarck City Planner says the rules are fairly simple.

The City Planner, Daniel Nairn adds, “The most important rule is really that the mural can only be on the side or the back of a building. It can’t be on the front side, facing the street.”

The rules are very similar in Mandan. Both cities require businesses to go through a review process. 

In Bismarck, it’s decided by the Downtown Design Review Committee. In Mandan, there is an Architectural Review Commission that approves murals.

Berger adds, “We have a lot of old, run-down buildings that haven’t been maintained, so it’s nice to see a little color on them sometimes.”

Nairn shares, “There’s been a lot of value added because of the murals. I mean they can attract people to downtown, and make it a higher quality of life. So they’re definitely something the city encourages and that’s written directly into the ordinance.”

Murals in Bismarck and Mandan do have to be maintained and touched up as they start to fade and chip. Keeping the paintings in good condition is also in both ordinances as the business owner’s responsibility.

Here’s a look at other murals in Bismarck-Mandan. 

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