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Downtown Visalia Mural Caught in Skirmish Between Council, Citizen Panel

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Not often does the mayor of a city step down from the dais and appeal a decision on behalf of the business they run, but that’s exactly what Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen did at a recent council after a Mural Panel recommended against approving a “Welcome to Downtown Visalia” mural.

The proposed mural reads “Welcome to Downtown Visalia” with images of local landmarks and commerce filling in the lettering for “Visalia,” which dominates the canvas. The mural would replace an existing one depicting a mountain scene with cabins and redwood trees recognizing Visalia’s proximity to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The mural is being proposed by a local business group, Downtown Visalians. Nelson is the group’s executive director.

“I will never not advocate for Visalia,” Nelsen said at the March 15 meeting. “To tell me I can’t put the city of Visalia in a mural, I can’t put up with that.”

But the citizen oversight panel that serves as the first line of defense for allowing mural art within the city — denied the initial application from Nelsen and his group, finding the lettering of “Downtown Visalia” too large, resembling advertising rather than art.

After further discussion, the council voted to appeal the mural panel’s denial.

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