City resident disagrees with neighbor allowing BHS art class graffiti project

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 1/19/23

BELLE — A Maries County R-2 Belle High School student art class has resulted in many conversations and disagreements between neighbors.

Elaine Lemons, whose son is an art one student, gave …

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City resident disagrees with neighbor allowing BHS art class graffiti project

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BELLE — A Maries County R-2 Belle High School student art class has resulted in many conversations and disagreements between neighbors.

Elaine Lemons, whose son is an art one student, gave the Belle High School (BHS) art class permission to use an empty mobile home on her property on the corner of Oak Avenue and Fourth Street as a canvas for a graffiti lesson. Lemons said she spoke with the art teacher in October 2022 during parent-teacher conferences when the subject came up.

Before the project took place, Lemons went to City Hall and was informed that they could not control how she chose to paint her property. However, her neighbor Belinda Branson disagrees.

“We have an ordinance against graffiti in town,” Branson said. “The mayor gave the school permission to do that when they asked. It is my understanding the mayor can’t change the ordinance all by himself, he would need a vote of the council. We have all summer been trying to get things done with this property. Two properties a block apart that is really a disgrace to the neighborhood.”

Branson cited city ordinance 400.470 Conditions of Buildings, Accessory Structures on Property - The existence of any of the following conditions on buildings, accessory structures, or property, where same has an adverse impact on safety, health, environment, aesthetics, or property values of properties in the near vicinity as a result of being visible from outside the property, is declared to be a nuisance and will be abated under Chapter 215 of the Belle City Code.

“I want the city to enforce the ordinances that they are breaking,” Branson said.

Belle Alderman Adam Padgett said he understands Branson doesn’t like the trailer.

“It is graffiti but it is an art project for the school,” Padgett said. “I don’t know if there is a specific ordinance that would prevent that from happening. If there is we will have to follow up. I don’t think there was anything that prevented them from doing it. Daryl (White, Jr., mayor) looked into it.”

Branson attends the monthly Belle city meetings monthly to log complaints regarding her neighbors’ property.

“Since I have been on the board they have done a lot to make that place better,” Padgett said. “They planned to paint that trailer anyway. It was just something for the kids to do.”

The BHS art one class has traditionally had a chapter on graffiti art.

“In ‘94 there was a shed they painted three or four times a year and no one cared because it was in the middle of the field,” Padgett said. 

The mobile home is covered in several different shades of paint and writing. In large letters across the top, one student wrote “Love Thy Neighbor” and another wrote, “Jesus Loves You.” Lemons said she appreciates the messages.

The empty trailer home is located in the 500 block of Fourth Street. Its primary purpose is storage. Lemons said she and her fiance had plans to paint the trailer and decided to wait until after the students finished their art project. She posted on her Facebook page that the art project was not what she expected.

“When I was told they were being taught a graffiti lesson I expected boxcar graffiti not what was painted so I am kind of disappointed in it myself,” Lemons told friends. “It is a reminder that the eyesore of a trailer could look much worse. The trailer isn’t leaving currently, but the graffiti isn’t staying either.”

The school district says the project is complete. Lemons also mentioned plans for a different type of art project in the near future.

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