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Published: Saturday, 6/1/2013

Mellencamp mural stirs debate in Indiana town


SEYMOUR, Ind. — Indiana rocker John Mellencamp likes to sing about the small town where he grew up, but some in his native Seymour aren't sure they want to see the singer's likeness on a building downtown.

Artist Kay Fox has proposed creating a mural depicting several images of Mellencamp and installing it on a building that houses This Old Guitar music store in downtown Seymour. She said it's a way to honor the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer for his contribution to the arts.

"I've been wanting to do this for years," she told The Tribune..

The proposal needs permission from Mellencamp and from a city review board established in 2011 to help preserve buildings in the Downtown Historic District. The city's building commissioner must approve any changes or work to the exterior of a building in the district.

Board vice chairman Brett Bevers, who owns the building where Fox wants to place the mural, said he's intrigued by the idea.

"Initially, I wanted to have more of Seymour's history depicted in the mural, but after seeing her idea and with the music store being there, I think it's appropriate," Bevers said. "Culturally, I think it would be a nice addition to that area."

But chairman Tom Goecker said he wasn't sure the mural should be a permanent fixture and worried that approving it would set a precedent that could lead to others.

"For the short term, I think it's OK," he said. "I'm not sure if it's a good idea for the long term, though."

Planning commission member Mike Jordan went further, saying he thought the mural idea was "cheesy."

Fox, who teaches at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, said it's important to honor Mellencamp for his contributions. He owns the home and grounds where the art center is housed and leases it to the center's board of directors for $1 a year.

She said the mural would "a way to say 'thank you' in a big way."

The review board has tabled discussion of the proposal until Fox receives permission from Mellencamp and the board receives more information about how long the mural would be in place. Fox has said that if done right, it could last 10 years.

Fox said the building's exterior has loose bricks and would need repair before a mural could go up.

"If we can't get that done, then the mural may not even happen," she said.

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