A rare moral rights vindication in Detroit

The Visual Artists Rights Act, or VARA, has since 1990 granted artists moral rights to their works of art. At least in the United States. Other nations have granted these moral rights to their artists for far longer. These are non-economic rights which prevent mutilation or destruction of works of art, and VARA lasts for the lifetime of the artist. Unfortunately much of the language of VARA is cumbersome and has relied on judicial massaging to reach a workable framework. And even despite this massaging, the concept of moral rights have not been favorably received in most courts. So it is noteworthy when an artist is able to successfully invoke the protections of VARA.

Such appears to be the case with respect to this work, “The Illuminated Mural” which was created on the side of this building on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit in 2009. At the time, Craig had received an agreement from the owner of the building that the mural would remain there for at least 10 years. When the building was sold to a new owner, the mural was jeopardized by plans to potentially redevelop the building. So in January of 2016, Craig filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction to preserve the mural.

This week, the current owner of the building has reached an agreement with Craig that will allow the mural to remain on the side of the building.

As she told Crain’s after the settlement:

“I’m really happy we got a break-through with ‘The Illuminated Mural’ where we are able to protect the work and maintain the original contract, which was the goal,” Craig said Friday afternoon. “It’s respect for the artwork that’s there and the future of the community, and the developer as well. We reached a middle ground there that I am happy with.”

How long and what the terms of the agreement may be are not public. But this large mural has earned a reprieve.

 

  1. Kirk Pinho, Colorful 9-story mural to stay on Milwaukee Junction building under court settlement, Crain’s Detroit Business (Mar. 13, 2017), http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170413/NEWS/170419900/colorful-9-story-mural-to-stay-on-milwaukee-junction-building-under [https://perma.cc/5R73-EPR5].

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