Utah community debates over controversial mural

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

MIDVALE — A mural on Main Street has the town talking. Some community members said the public art display is inappropriate for children, while others said it’s up to individual interpretation.

“Because it’s up for interpretation, I’ve heard many people say it represents different things to them,” Midvale Mayor Marcus Stevenson said.

He said the mural went up in May, on the backside of a tattoo parlor, but only recently has it sparked a lot of conversation.

Stevenson said the artist, Shae Petersen, had his design approved by the city and owner of the business.

“To the city, this is not a depiction of nudity, so at this point the mural is there and will stay there,” the mayor said.

Some critics said during a city council meeting that the mural seemed to depict a naked man and woman “experiencing ecstasy.” Another person, during public comment, said, as a father of four, the art made him “cringe.”

“You’re seeing an arm and a breast,” said Petersen. “That’s both there, but there was never any intention to hide it or make it some sort of an optical illusion.”

Some residents said the female in the mural appears young.

“You can’t say that she has a huge breast and she’s also child-like,” Petersen said. “You have to pick and choose what your opinion is.”

Stevenson said the majority of the public doesn’t take issue with the art. He said it has brought visitors to the city and has started meaningful conversations about art.

“I think seeing art that is unique, that starts conversations that gets people on to our Main Street to come and view this, I think that’s something that residents are recognizing,” he said.

The mayor said the city views the art as a First Amendment issue and that it doesn’t violate the city’s community standards.

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