WAMU 88.5 : News

Dog Mural: Art Or Advertisement?

Play associated audio
The mural was completed in May 2010 by local artist Mark Gutierrez.
Institute for Justice
The mural was completed in May 2010 by local artist Mark Gutierrez.

In Virginia, the owner of a small business in Shirlington has filed a federal free speech lawsuit against Arlington County. Kim Houghton filed the suit regarding a mural she commissioned on the outside wall of her dog-grooming business, Wag More Dogs.

Wag More Dogs' back wall faces Shirlington's popular dog park, and Houghton had what she thought was a great idea: a giant mural depicting cartoon dogs.

"I thought it was something very nice that would be pleasing and a joy for them to look at as they were walking by," she says.

Houghton spent $4,000 for an artist, and painting was completed.

But county zoning soon informed her that the painting violated the county's sign ordinance, and she would have to take it down or cover it up.

Eventually they told her she could keep the painting, if she simply added the words "Welcome to Shirlington's Canine Community Area."

"Arlington County is essentially saying that your mural is so wonderful, we'd like to make it into our sign, at your expense. So a sign is really OK here, as long as they own it," Houghton says.

Mary Curtius, media relations manager for Arlington County, says county staff were surprised to here about the lawsuit today, since they felt they had offered Houghton several options.

"Right now, it's a mural of dogs, on business that caters to dogs...That clearly falls within the description of a sign under our ordinance," Curtius says.

She says businesses are allowed 60 square feet of sign space. The Wag More Dogs painting is 16-by-60 feet.

WAMU 88.5

Anne Tyler: "A Spool Of Blue Thread" (Rebroadcast)

In her first live radio interview ever, Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Tyler joins Diane to talk about her 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread."


Scotch Whiskey Gets A Run For Its Money From Global Distillers

A Canadian company recently was named whiskey of the year — knocking Scotch brands from the top-five category. In the U.S., there's been a massive increase in single malts in particular.

Frustrated With GOP Candidates, Muslims Recall More Welcoming Days

Many Muslim-Americans say the current political climate is worse than the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Many Muslims who once voted Republican, say don't feel like they have a home in that party.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.