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Spotlight: New law eases restrictions on street art in "The City Beautiful"

A ten-foot sculpture of a sunflower growing out of a bed of puzzle pieces stands on the wall of a store in the Mills 50 district. It's what Coralie Claeysen-Gleyzon calls a “creative solution” to a trash problem in a small space between two buildings.

“People would throw burger wrappers, beer cans, like a bunch of trash basically and it was impossible to retrieve it,” she remembers.

Claeysen-Gleyzon is the curator for Jai Gallery and one of the forces behind the Urban Art Museum. The group is bringing local architects, artists, and residents together to solve some of the city’s infrastructural issues through art.

"We’re approached by business owners who want to have something on the side of their businesses, but they want it done right. They can have a budget and even if they don’t have a budget, we’ll consider the idea,” she says.

The Urban Art Museum depends mostly on crowdfunding, and it hopes the city’s two-year pilot art program will give it more exposure. The city will require a $50 permit for murals, which will be limited to the side and back of buildings. Claeysen-Gleyzon says the program shows a paradigm shift that places more value on street art.

“I remember some businesses a few years ago who had to repaint their entire buildings and warehouses because it was considered an eyesore to have murals on the buildings.”

While the city’s decision may reflect a change of heart for what it constitutes art versus an eyesore, the program comes at the heels of a debate over what constitutes art versus ads.

Artist Marcos Cruz says, “It’s easy to see when art is art and when it’s publicity.” He sculpted the 10-foot sunflower in Mills 50 pro bono and paid for his materials with $4500 in donations. He values the piece at $25,000.

In his Winter Springs studio, Cruz is working on a tall, aluminum sculpture of two figures dancing. He’s been commissioned to do the piece for a group in Miami. That’s how he earns his living—like many artists.

"When we do the art for walls, in some occasions, we may need sponsors—good sponsors. Some of those sponsors may be thanked for within the art itself," he says.

For Julio Lima, a self-proclaimed creative activist, there's a fine line between art and advertisements. “Some people can see it as advertising. I just see it as great art that’s promoting the product that’s funding the artist,” he says.

Lima runs Say It Loud, an advertising agency in a bright orange building in Mills 50.

“When I painted the building orange, we had three or four people weekly that would stop in and say ‘What’d you do? We hate it! I have to drive by here every day. It’s obnoxious,” he remembers.

Although he met resistance, he says the bright color helped gives Mills its reputation for innovation—which is now spreading.

Artist Marcos Cruz hopes the city can use its program to support artists in other neighborhoods.

“They’ve always been involved. If you don’t cut your lawn, they’re going to be there," he jokes.

He hopes the city will be flexible in the kinds of murals it allows, focusing on themes that connect, rather than divide.

And for Coralie Claeyson-Gleyzon, who wants to spread the Urban Art Museum to Parramore, the city’s pilot program is just one piece of a large puzzle for reinventing creativity in "The City Beautiful."

“There’s different ways of doing this and to me, anyway is worth it because it’s toward the same purpose of bringing more arts to the walls of Orlando.”

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