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The Daily Tar Heel

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe's window art allowed to stay

After a Wednesday night meeting of the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission, Dean Smith will remain larger-than-life in Chapel Hill.

At the meeting, the Public Arts Commission reviewed two gigantic murals on the windows of Tobacco Road — a local sports cafe located off of N.C. Highway 54 that opened in December.

The photographic murals, one of Dean Smith and one of Michael Jordan, stirred controversy after a neighbor complained to the town, said Brian Amra, the cafe’s owner.

The complaint prompted a review by the town about whether the murals were classified as signs or pieces of art to determine what guidelines they must follow.

Before reaching the Public Arts Commission, the issue was analyzed by the Chapel Hill Community Design Commission, which decided the murals did not violate any sign ordinances, said the arts commission’s board liaison, Jeffrey York.

Lisa Goldstein, the chairwoman of the Public Arts Commission, said courtesy reviews are normally completed by the council before the installation of art.

She said because the art has been determined not to violate any sign ordinances, the commission has no jurisdiction over the matter.

Amra said the images on the windows of Tobacco Road are not paintings, but rather iconic photographs from Getty Images — an image-licensing site — that have been pieced together on the different panes of glass.

Amra has similar images on the windows of his other Tobacco Road locations.

The murals will be replaced and repaired to keep them in good shape over time, he said at the meeting.

Though no action was taken on the murals, many commission members expressed concern about them.

Daniel Cefalo, the commission’s vice chairman, said he was concerned that images like these could become large billboards.

He wondered how the commission could possibly regulate or prevent art from turning into large advertisements.

Other commission members agreed with Cefalo.

Members also discussed recommending that Chapel Hill revise its sign ordinances to prevent any further confusion involving nonpublic murals.

But some of the commission members had more lighthearted concerns.

“Dean Smith should be bigger, and Michael Jordan should be smaller,” said commission member Scott Radway.

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