British Columbia

Artist stunned after mural partly painted over in Merritt

One of the murals in Merritt B.C.'s Walk of Stars, commemorating country artists has been partially painted over. The mural of iconic Elvis Presley is no longer in its original state.

Michelle Loughery says she's willing to work with the owner of the building to find a solution

The mural on the side of The Desert Inn in Merritt. The original showed a landscape with a pink Caddy, which has since been painted over. (Submitted)

If you've spent any time in Merritt, B.C., you've probably seen some of the many murals around the small community showcasing famous country artists.

But one of the iconic pieces of art has been partially painted over, leaving the community and the artist behind the mural wondering why.

The mural of Elvis Presley on the side of Desert Inn originally had a picture of Elvis's face beside a landscape of a pink Cadillac. But the new owners of the motel painted over the landscape portion.

Michelle Loughery — who painted the mural back in 2007 as part of the Walk of Stars project — says she received a phone call from a resident letting her know what had happened.

"I just couldn't understand how that could get half painted over," she said.

This is what the original mural looked like before being painted over. (Submitted)

"Elvis Presley played only one concert out of the United States and that was in Vancouver and that mural represents that."

Loughery says that while she was awarded two grants for the piece most of it went to mentoring youth involved, meaning she did most of the work for free. 

"The murals were basically a donation from myself," she said

"I'm very concerned. We can't just leave it half done. That's a problem."

But what bothers Loughery most is all of the work that went into having the Elvis Presley Estate grant permission for the work to be created in the first place.

Loughery says she and the previous building owner signed a contract with Elvis Presley Enterprises.

"I don't believe you would ever get EPE [Elvis Presley Enterprises] to sign a contract like that again,"  she said.

"We always must respect the artist's rights — the publicity rights of Elvis Presley."

City 'seeking advice'

Loughery says she has consulted with her legal team to find out her rights as an artist.

"Legally in Canada, a business owner can paint over a wall if he so chooses, unless the mural is of important artistic iconic status," she said.

"I do believe that this mural has that stature. But he does not have a right to paint over half of an artist's work."

Loughery says she has reached out to the owner of the building, and she welcomes a conversation with them to find a solution.

Meanwhile, the city says they have received multiple calls from concerned citizens asking about the situation.

Shawn Boven, the chief administrative officer for the City of Merritt, says the murals are important to the community and are a source of tourism.

"I'm seeking advice on what are the rights of the artist, what are the rights of the society that commissioned the murals, and what are the rights of the owners that own building that have a mural on them," said Boven.

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