Historic Phoenix neighborhood divided over art murals

PHOENIX - A historic Phoenix neighborhood is battling controversy over art murals that have some neighbors at odds with one another.

Back in May, the City of Phoenix partnered with the Willo historic neighborhood to add a bit of color to several community walls in an effort to bring people together, but it ended up having the reverse effect for some.

Community member Bob Girvin said all he sees is blight. 

“First of all, it doesn’t look good and second of all, it does not fit with the aesthetic of the Willo neighborhood,” said Girvin. 

He’s talking about a 55-foot long wall covered with a colorful city scape surrounded by cactus just outside his windows along 5th Avenue. It’s one of more than two dozen that went up during the Phoenix Mural Festival. 

“It hurts our home values as well, I mean we’re talking real dollars,” said Girvin. 

Most of the murals were painted on walls facing alleyways, but a few have drawn criticism for being more intrusive. 

“We got our monthly newsletter that talked about the mural project and I talked to my husband about it and said hey this seems really cool,” said Jennifer Rebholz. 

Rebholz jumped on board when the project came about, but is bothered by what it’s become. 

“I was sad to see how many people seem to be upset about it, and didn’t choose to reach out to their neighbors and have a conversation about it,” said Rebholz. 

Technically they didn’t have to. The murals are painted on private property in a community without an HOA. 

“Los Angeles, Portland, many other cities have adopted regulations where murals can actually be in the community,” said Opal Wagner, a Willo community board member.

Now community board members have come together to ask the city what to do. 

“We didn’t ask for an ordinance to be passed, we just asked for basically a first step,” said Wagner. 

For Girvin, that step would include a fresh start and a fresh coat.  

“We have this nice community that we’re proud of and it’s just dividing people, it’s just one more thing that we don’t need.” said Girvin. 

Many community members ABC15 spoke with absolutely love what the murals have brought to the community. Board members are expected to hear back from the city within the next 90 days.  

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