Halcyon Store and Post Office used to have a 360-degree mural on its walls. Now it doesn't.
The fate of the whooping cranes, hummingbirds, and gray geese that mingled with butterflies and flowers is clear: They've been painted over. But how the situation got to that point is not as obvious.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF VERONA REBOW
- ONCE UPON A TIME : This picture of the Halcyon Store and Post Office was taken after Verona ReBow completed the first phase of her mural.
# The mural had been in progress for the past two years, and was about two-thirds complete when it was painted over last month. Neither store owner Susie Clark nor muralist Verona ReBow is eager to discuss the incident that resulted in the mural's removal from the building beyond acknowledging that the issue relates to a matter of copyrights.
In January 2005, New Times reported that Clark had commissioned ReBow, a Halcyon resident and professional artist, to paint a mural on the Halcyon Store. ReBow had painted murals on her own house, and Clark admired her work. By the time ReBow had completed the first side of the store, the mural was attracting attention from locals. One man even said that he deliberately changed his path to work in order to drive by the store each day. ReBow framed the door in red curtains, for prosperity, with a river winding down from mountains and a bright sun gracing the door.
According to ReBow, at the top of each invoice she sent to the store, there was a statement that she retained the copyrights to her mural a fact that Clark doesn't dispute. Additionally, ReBow registered her mural with the copyright association as a precaution, even though, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, any work is automatically protected by copyright the moment it is created. A new work of art does not have to be registered at the copyright office to be afforded copyright protection. Still, many lawyers recommend registering with the copyright office in the event that a legal dispute does occur.
In August, ReBow became aware that the Halcyon Store was selling merchandise including coffee mugs, postcards, magnets, and T-shirts bearing images of the store, and, thus, her mural. She said that she sent a letter requesting that the company producing the merchandise cease and desist.
What happened after that becomes muddled.
Rumors of potential lawsuits surfaced, though neither Clark nor ReBow claim that they planned to sue one another.
ReBow went to visit family in Germany in September. When she returned in October, she discovered that the mural had been painted over.
Though ReBow declined to comment specifically about her personal situation, she was willing to offer advice to other visual artists.
"I think this is an important issue to bring awareness about," she said. "I myself was not really aware of the importance of copyright, because in my 35 years working in this field, I have never encountered any difficulties with it. Since this issue, I became aware that not everybody looks at information too closely and reads everything, so it is a good idea to clarify the idea of intellectual properties."
In addition to consulting a lawyer regarding intellectual properties, picking up a copy of Legal Guide for Visual Artists by Tad Crawford may mitigate confusion.