The mural is not going away.

Following an expedited Zoom meeting, held on Holy Thursday with the city’s Design Review Board, Mayor Sherry Capello approved the three-story outdoor mural painted last week at 38 S. 8th St. in downtown Lebanon.

The former office building, owned by Kapel LLC, is across the street from the Lebanon Farmers’ Market and contains Market View Apartments.

Capello became the target of social media criticism when the city issued a cease-and-desist order on April 13. According to the city zoning officer, the giant artwork violated a 2020 mural ordinance that requires Design Review Board review plus mayoral approval.

Neither the artist, the property owner, nor the project’s financial backers applied for a permit or notified anyone at the city before beginning work, the mayor said.

Project manager Emily Goodrum and the artist, New York-based BKFoxx, told LebTown that they were unaware of the mural ordinance when work started.

Foxx continued painting after the cease-and-desist order was served, finishing on April 17.

According to Goodrum, Lebanon native and retired NFL player Jared Odrick is a financial contributor to the project.

Capello told LebTown that she met with Ari Sznajder, a Kapel representative, in October 2019, after he had expressed interest in putting a mural on the building. At the time, the city had a recently created “mural policy” that had yet to be adopted as an enforceable ordinance.

Capello said Sznajder was given a copy of the policy at the meeting, and a second copy about a month later.

“We never heard from him again after that,” she said. “We never saw pictures, nothing, until [Foxx] started painting on Wednesday.”

“All of a sudden, the city is being painted as the bad guy because on Thursday we did a cease and desist,” the mayor said. “Well, we didn’t know what was going on or who was doing the work. We were hoping to get someone’s attention so we could get it resolved quickly.”

After an application was filed, Capello called a special video meeting of the Design Review Board at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, “because I didn’t want to call people into work on Good Friday,” and the mural was approved.

“I feel we went out of our way to get this approved,” she said. “We don’t want to stop art. We love art. But we can’t have people disregarding our ordinances.”

Sznajder admitted that he was not aware of the mural ordinance before work commenced, and couldn’t recall getting a copy of the earlier mural policy when he met with Capello in 2019.

But he said the oversight was unintentional. “We have always done everything above board at Kapel, and our goal is to always make things better than when we got there.”

“We converted a dilapidated office building into luxury apartments,” Sznajder said, referring to the building that now features the mural. “I think we’ve really brightened up that corner.”

Sznajder said the idea for a mural had been floating around for about two years and it was a meeting with Odrick that steered it toward reality.

“I met up with Jared and he said ‘Yeah, let’s do a cool mural. Let’s get an internationally renowned artist and do it big so it can kick start and accelerate downtown Lebanon.'”

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Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...