OWN, Tattoo shop representatives spar over ‘grafitti’ mural

       The Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) engaged representatives of West Side Tattoo and Art Gallery in a spirited discussion about the merits of the business' large, colorful mural at the Sept. 8 OWN town meeting. Westside Pioneer file photo
       The advocacy group took no vote, but criticism was voiced by a few board members and a Westside resident attending the meeting. The only outcome of the meeting was West Side Tattoo's agreeing to remove the word “kill” - although stressing that the word had been part of an artistically separated phrase (“looks could kill”) and had not been meant in any kind of violent context. The mural is along the west (21st Street) side of the store at 21st Street and Colorado Avenue.
       Tattoo-business owners Aaron and Brian Moore, saying they had engaged top “grafitti-style” artists for the roughly 750-square- foot spray-painted work, told the OWN board it has received virtually universal praise since it went up in July.
       To support this assertion, the group started a survey effort the day after the meeting. The survey forms, placed in some area businesses (chiefly the nearby Farm Crest store), asked for non-anonymous feedback - pro, con or unbiased - on the mural. Out of about 650 responses through Sept. 13, all but 3 were positive, with age ranges from 20s to 60s, according to filled-out forms viewed by the Westside Pioneer.
       Farm Crest manager Cecie Weldon said the survey forms have been out on the store counter; if she thinks of it, she asks people to fill one out.
       Shop co-owner Aaron Moore said he has been considering another mural on the east side of the building, but has held off while waiting to see how the survey went. He said this week that the favorable results have exceeded even his expectations.
       At the meeting, OWN President Jim Fenimore said he was impressed with the tattoo business, which opened last spring at 21st Street and Colorado Avenue. “The shop is very clean, neat and orderly,” he commented. However, he said his “biggest concern” was the possibility that the mural might spur gang activities or less-artistic spray-painters. Other members worried about the mural's impacts on property values or neighborhood compatibility.
       The mural, covering a previously painted brick wall nearly 50 feet long, includes a Colorado state flag, Boy Scouts, abstract elements and elaborate pseudonym signatures from the different artists who worked on it.
       Dave Hughes, an OWN board member, said he personally has “no problem with it,” but speculated that some established entities might be opposed. He proposed that his organization do a survey of its own in the next issue of the quarterly Westside Story newsletter, which is published by OWN and partially subsidized by the city.
       The discussion inadvertently ranged into the subject of free speech. When one of the West Side Tattoo group, who goes by his pseudonym, PAES 164, called Kliewer's letter a “hate letter,” she responded, “It's my opinion.”
       “Then keep it to yourself,” he said.
       “No, no,” Hughes objected.
       The West Side Tattoo representatives attended the meeting after receiving a letter opposing the mural from Rose Kliewer (who is an OWN board member but was writing as a private citizen). The discussion occurred spontaneously as there were no planned discussion items on the OWN meeting agenda.

Westside Pioneer article