‘New York look’ still art? Word, pointer may cross line

I­f a brief pointer — a word to the wise — is sufficient, according to the adage, is it possible that a pointer and a word directing customers to Wise Guys Pizza is enough to turn permission into prohibition?

Because the entrance to Wise Guys on 11th Avenue is visible to motorists only in their rearview mirrors as they head north on Chestnut Avenue, owner Bob Goss has painted a mural depicting a scene from the movie “Scarface” on a wall visible from 12th Avenue, triggering controversy over whether it’s permissible “art” or a sign that the city can regulate.

A recent individual poll of City Council members determined that the mural was art, which meant that it could remain without hassle, according to Interim City Manager Peter Marshall, when shop owner Bob Goss appeared at a meeting this week to ask the status of the matter.

But a check of the mural after that poll was taken revealed that the artists hired by Goss had added an arrow directing customers to the front of the building and the word “Pizza,” which potentially brought the mural back into the city’s crosshairs, Marshall told Goss.

“Personally, I really like it,” Marshall said of the mural. “But you’ve changed it.”

Now, Marshall will need to poll council again to determine whether members still think it’s art — or a sign, the manager said.

Goss didn’t volunteer to remove the most recent addition to the mural.

“I guess you guys will do what you have to do,” he said. “And I will have to do what I have to do.”

The city would likely enforce the sign provisions in its zoning ordinance, if council members rule the mural is no longer art, Marshall said after the meeting.

And if Goss doesn’t remove the arrow and the word that tells customers what’s available in his shop after that, “I guess it could end up in magisterial district court,” Marshall said. “Then the judge would decide.”

The zoning ordinance says a sign is:

“Any object, device, display or structure, or part thereof, situated outdoors or indoors, which is used to advertise, identify, display, direct, or attract attention to an object, person, institution, organization, business, product, service, event, or location by any means, including words, letters, figures, design, symbols, fixtures, colors, illumination or projected images.”

The artists added the arrow and the word “PIZZA” to give a “New York look,” Goss told council.

The artists plan to add a skyline too, Goss said.

But he needs to earn more from the shop to pay them for that, he said.

“I spent good money to make sure it was done beautiful,” Goss said.

“I didn’t do this to ruffle any feathers,” Goss told council, after pointing out the variety of murals or mural-like depictions in and around downtown that he argued justify the existence of his mural. “I thought it would be a cool thing,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.