St. Augustine artists fighting for visibility against newly built fence

ST. AUGUSTINE — Two St. Augustine artists and a local business are feuding over a newly built fence.

However, it’s more than an 8-foot tall fence to the artists. Behind it is an art display that’s been up for more than two years. Now they are fighting to get their visibility back once again.

“The great wall of Turner,” Funky Woodwerks owner and artist Sam Norrell said.

That’s what artists Norrell and Steven Johnson call the fence built in between their display and Turner Ace Hardware.

They said their neighbors had the fence built about two months ago covering up an art display they’ve had out for more than two years.

Norell said she used to work for the store and thought they were on good terms until the fence popped up. She said they tried to work with the store months prior, but store owners ignored their requests for compromise.

Eventually, as the fence came up, they decided to raise their art into the tree.

“We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy what we’ve brought for the community,” Norrell said.

The fight doesn’t stop there. Norrell and Johnson confronted store owners first, which you can watch on their YouTube channel.

They later began protesting on the street by parking their car on public property with signs reading “no heart for the art” among other slogans.

However, now those protests have turned into a bitter back-and-forth.

Norell said the police have been involved. Now she and Johnson are not allowed within three feet of the fence, even on their side.

Norell also filed a police report herself after she said some of her art was taken off her car parked on a public street. According to St. Augustine Police, the case is still an open investigation.

Turner Ace Hardware owner Kyle Turner didn’t want to do an interview but he said the fence was built legally, was part of a landscaping upgrade, and was meant to address security concerns and shoplifters.

Turner also claimed Sam and Steven were using his customers and lot to promote and run their own business.

Norell admitted that was a concern in the beginning when they heard about the wall. She even emailed Turner suggesting compromises with the fence that wouldn’t hurt their art business.

However, Norrell said things have changed in the past several months. They’ve realized it’s much more than attracting business.

“It’s about the art,” Norrell said.

The artists also agree that Turner does have the right to build a wall on his own property.

“We understand property rights. We get it, he is in every bit of his right to build a fence. It’s just the morals behind it and the ethics,” Norrell said.

Turner said he has received relatively no complaints about the newly built wall from customers.

For now, Norrell and Johnson plan to continue to peacefully protest until they can maybe hang their artwork on the fence or paint it.