Denounced Over Faint Suggestion Of Nipple, Cherokee Street Mural Turns Critics Into Fans

Categories: Arts

Danny Wicentowski
The violation notice was a mistake, admits St. Louis Building Commissioner Frank Oswald.

The error, he says, came from a "relatively new" inspector who may have been confused by the mural's proximity on the wall to actual advertisements for a nail salon and rental center.

"The inspector in that area received a citizen's service bureau complaint, and he originally sent out a violation letter telling them to get a permit," says Oswald. Apparently, the inspector thought Prime was an advertisement of some kind.

"His supervisor realized that there was not any advertising or endorsing of a company, which actually throws it into classification as public art. So we just abated the letter of violation."

Danny Wicentowski
Despite a few knee-jerk overreactions and a city inspector's minor blundering, the mural has gained wide acceptance in the Cherokee community, says Cara Spencer, who runs the Nebula Coworking Space.

"As it was being built and unfolded, I received a considerable amount of feedback. A lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback but also a lot of negative feedback as well, from churches and neighbors," says Spencer.

"What was really really interesting," she reflects, "was the moment it was finished, the barrage of communication didn't stop, but the negative communication stopped entirely."

Though Prime has endured more than her fare share of unwarranted criticism, this is still a step up for the Cherokee neighborhood and its evolving relationship to its street art. By comparison, in 2006 the vice president of the Cherokee Station Business Association tore down a Cherokee Street mural with her bare hands.

"This type of art is something that's still very new to people, and people didn't know what to expect," muses Spencer. "But at the end of the day, Prime is a really lovely piece. I think people really came around the final product."

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at

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