To all Paducah artists ,art patrons and citizens:
In the past week, the flood wall murals in downtown Paducah have been at the center of an artistic controversy. For over twenty years, the flood walls have been decorated with the paintings of Robert Dafford. Depicting moments in Paducah's history, the flood wall murals have become a destination for most tourists. These murals, for many reasons, need annual maintenance to keep them in optimal viewing condition. This maintenance is the point of the controversy.
Who can restore a work of art? When a painting or sculpture needs cleaning, or when restoration issues arise, the artist responsible for creating the work is typically called to administer the cleaning or restoration. When the original artist is unavailable to do the work, other qualified art restorers can be employed.
The Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) is the first federal copyright legislation to grant protection to the moral rights of an artist. VARA is very clear about artists rights when it concerns distortion, mutilation or modification to a work of fine art that may compromise the artists honor or reputation. Art protected by VARA is very clear, and pertains to paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and still photographic images produced for exhibition only. Though the Dafford murals do not fall under VARA jurisdiction because they are a commission and not for exhibition, the working relationship between Robert Dafford and the city of Paducah has a history of mutual respect for the maintenance of the murals.
The cost of maintenance of the flood wall murals is extensive for Paducah. With the slow economic recovery from the recent global recession, giving work to local populations has become a necessity. Paducah, a town with art as its primary tourist basis, has a huge resource of local artistic talent. With the flood wall murals needing restoration, is it not fair to ask a qualified local artist to do the work?
Who should do the work is the question. With respect to Robert Dafford, he should be given the first chance to submit a bid for the maintenance of his murals. If Dafford's bid is not within the city of Paducah's budget parameters for the maintenance, then qualified local artists should be allowed to submit a bid for the maintenance as well. The city of Paducah should then decide on the best course of action for flood mural maintenance.
A professional level of ethical integrity should always be maintained. We, as a community, have made a respectful investment in the flood wall murals and as committed community members we get to direct how we will proceed into the future with this responsibility. We have an opportunity to maintain the artistic integrity of the murals, the vitality of our local economy, and support local residents. Let's do that!
If you would like to see a qualified, local artist do the work, please sign the petition below and let your voice be heard.