City of Atlanta settles lawsuit with street artists

The city of Atlanta has agreed not to enforce an ordinance that requires street artists to obtain a series of approvals to retain murals that already exist or to paint new pieces of artwork.

The city's decision resolves a lawsuit recently filed by a group of local artists and

This work, by plaintiff Yoyo Ferro, is located on the side of a salon at Memorial Drive and Moreland Avenue.

property owners. The settlement was part of a consent order signed Friday by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg.

"We are so pleased that the city embraced the artists who make gray walls speak," said Atlanta lawyer Gerry Weber, who represented the plaintiffs. "This is an encouraging step for the city supporting our amazing artistic community."

The federal lawsuit said local artists and property owners had been told they must go through a multi-step application process to retain artwork that already exists or face possible prosecution and the elimination of murals on their own property.

This mural of author James Baldwin, by "Occasional Superstar," is on Flat Shoals Road.

The suit alleged that the 35-year-old public art ordinance is unconstitutional. It noted that artists, before painting new murals, must obtain approval from five separate city offices, including the mayor and the City Council. The public art ordinance also provides no time limits for the approval process.

The city had set a June 9 deadline for artists and property owners to comply with the public art ordinance, but lifted it when both sides tried to settle the dispute.

Among the plaintiffs are Fabian Williams, a street artist who makes murals under the name "Occasional Superstar"; Peter Ferrari, "PLF"; Benito Ferro, "Yoyo Ferro"; and bar owner Grant Henry.

In her order, Totenberg said the city had agreed to pay the plaintiffs damages of $500 each. Yet to be decided, she said, is the award of attorneys' fees for the the lawyers representing the street artists.

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About the Author

Bill Rankin
Bill Rankin
Bill Rankin covers criminal justice, the death penalty and legal affairs. He also hosts the AJC’s “Breakdown” podcast.