A Florida home splashed bright blue and swirling yellow top to bottom in a mural of Vincent Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" will remain preserved after the couple residing in the house won a legal battle against the city of Mount Dora.
Nancy Nemhauser and Ludomir Jastrzebski were fined more than $10,000 for over a year for their mural being "an illegal sign in violation of Mount Dora ordinances," according to Daily Commercial, a local Florida daily. On Tuesday, Florida Mayor Nick Girone announced as part of a settlement the city will apologize, drop the fees and pay the couple $15,000 for their trouble.
“I would like to extend my sincere apology to Nancy and [Lubomir] for how this matter has turned into an unfortunate dispute,” Girone said.
The city and couple became embroiled in the legal fight in 2017 when the couple decided to hire an artist to turn an unsightly masonry wall in front of their house into a particular work of art their autistic son enjoyed, reports the Daily Commercial.
The city, however, was not a fan. Considering the mural graffiti, the city classified it as an illegal sign and ordered the couple to make the stone wall match the house.
The couple doubled down on the "Starry Night" motif in protest, extending the mural to cover the front and back of their home.
The fines were initially limited to $3,000, but the city later ruled to increase the fines by $100 each day the mural was not painted over, racking up a tab of over $10,000. The couple retaliated by suing the city in federal court on the grounds that the art is free speech protected under the Constitution.
Nemhauser told Reuters the inspiration behind the mural was to help her autistic son find his way home if he ever got lost. The house became a local tourist attraction and amid the lawsuits and legal clashes an online petition to keep the mural received over 6,000 signatures.
The lawsuits wrapped up in a settlement favored by all Mount Dora city council members.
Richard Barrenechea, the artist who designed and painted the mural, was glad to put the city's creative differences behind him.
"It's a big day for the arts," Richard Barrenechea, the artist who designed and painted the mural, told the Associated Press. "It's a big day for Mount Dora, and a big day for freedom."
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