Chapel Hill restaurant plans to replace mural with gardens

mschultz@newsobserver.comMarch 25, 2013 

— The owner of Franklin Street’s Lantern restaurant plans to replace a well-known mural that was on the side of her building with outdoor gardens and vine-covered walls.

Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing drew criticism from some community members this month when she had a mural of young musicians by hometown artist Michael Brown painted black.

Repeated efforts to reach Reusing have failed, but the Lantern’s Facebook page states that the owners made a business decision and told Brown about it six months ago.

“When we bought the building last year, we decided to convert Lantern’s outdoor spaces into gardens and green, vine covered walls,” it says. “We have known Michael Brown as (a) customer at Lantern for many years. About six months ago, he was informed of our renovation plan and responded by offering to paint a new mural in the same spot.

“Lantern’s renovation is not a comment on Michael Brown’s work, but rather a business and design decision that was made with deliberation,” it continues. “We have loved growing with and being part of the Chapel Hill community for the last 11 years, and we look forward to many more.”

Brown said Monday that Reusing may have planned to contact him but no one did.

“I think I would remember that,” he said.

Chapel Hill has marketed its downtown murals as attractions. The local visitors bureau turned the musicians mural into a postcard.

But Brown, who has painted most of them, doesn’t think people should boycott the Lantern, as some have suggested.

“I’m going to eat there,” he said. “There’s no need to be punitive about it.”

The restaurant’s Facebook post says the town should encourage public art on public buildings rather than private.

“As long as we rely on private property to host public art, it will be vulnerable to the inevitable evolution of a thriving downtown and impermanent by definition,” it says. “However, potential blank canvases for public art on Town-owned buildings are everywhere. Perhaps Mayor Kleinschmidt could start such a process by identifying possible sites for new murals on public buildings in Chapel Hill.”

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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