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Signs Separating art from a sign

is it art?

  • It's art, you silly fart

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • It's a sign, you swine

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • It's none of these, if you please

    Votes: 2 33.3%
  • I don't care, said the hare

    Votes: 2 33.3%

  • Total voters
    6

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,123
Points
55
Ah, everyone's favorite argument at the counter - it's art! no, it's a sign!

Do you have language the separates them - if you do allow art, do you have it reviewed by anyone?

We have, outside of the downtown district, a pretty well known non profit that wants to put one very nice word (in a font or colors that you really wouldn't know it's them) in lighted letters (we allow lights) that's really big (so it doesn't meet any sign dimensional code) and it's not on a building they own, it's on someone else's building that is allowing it

We want to allow for this but we don't want to open a Pandora's box of first amendment fun by slapping together something we will assuredly regret later so if anyone has a sign code that addresses it that they really like, please let me know!

Thank you!
 

kms

Cyburbian
Messages
6,786
Points
44
I don't know anything about sign codes, but I know people. Call it a sign, not art.
 

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
836
Points
33
Here you go. We know it when we see it:

"Public art includes sculptures, monuments, murals, and other objects of art that are not enclosed in a building or other structure and that will be visible from a public way. Public art may also be incorporated into functional objects like fountains, benches, lamp posts, and other streetscape features. Public art is often used to commemorate a person or event, but may also serve no purpose other than public enjoyment. While public art can and should help attract people to a place, it bears no commercial message, explicit or implicit.

It is not the intent (of this zoning) to limit freedom of expression, but (municipality) does need an opportunity to enforce the distinction between public art and signs. (municipality) also needs to ensure that proposed public art does not constitute a hazard to drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians. For this reason, proposed public art must be included in all applications for permits and a permit will be required for the addition of public art to an approved development."
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,123
Points
55
Here you go. We know it when we see it:

"Public art includes sculptures, monuments, murals, and other objects of art that are not enclosed in a building or other structure and that will be visible from a public way. Public art may also be incorporated into functional objects like fountains, benches, lamp posts, and other streetscape features. Public art is often used to commemorate a person or event, but may also serve no purpose other than public enjoyment. While public art can and should help attract people to a place, it bears no commercial message, explicit or implicit.

It is not the intent (of this zoning) to limit freedom of expression, but (municipality) does need an opportunity to enforce the distinction between public art and signs. (municipality) also needs to ensure that proposed public art does not constitute a hazard to drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians. For this reason, proposed public art must be included in all applications for permits and a permit will be required for the addition of public art to an approved development."

holy crap I think I know where you work - that's so on point!
 

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
836
Points
33
In the whole time I have been administering this, it hasn't come up much- we have approved a couple of sculpture areas as parts of site plan approvals, always pretty clear that what's being proposed is in no way commercial.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
19,161
Points
71
It's art if the subject matter is abstract, or has no relationship to the principal use or tenant of the property. This also includes anything related to the trade dress of the tenant or use.

At least that's kind of what I said in a zoning code I wrote during my :texas: year. I think.

I've heard urbanists in Buffalo defend the notoriously amateurish hand-painted signs that many corner stores and East Side businesses display as "folk art". What do you think?

east_side.jpg
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,123
Points
55
It's art if the subject matter is abstract, or has no relationship to the principal use of the property.

At least that's kind of what I said in a zoning code I wrote during my :texas: year.

I've heard urbanists in Buffalo defend the notoriously amateurish hand-painted signs that many corner stores and East Side businesses display as "folk art". What do you think?

View attachment 51016

We have those too and yeah I think they should get some historic protection so they can be maintained - thank you for the reminder - they are interesting and were commonly found on brick buildings on the border of a core business district, or in our case, a river
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,230
Points
59
Agreed that F-M's definition is a gold standard.

I'm saving that and using it when this subject comes up again, which it has in the past, but, thankfully, went silent.

For now, I do apply an interpretation of existing codes and bascially tell people that if it's not explicitly/implicitly (see I'm doing it already, though...) speech related to the business, then it's just paint organized in a specific manner...aka Art.
 
Last edited:

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
836
Points
33
It's art if the subject matter is abstract, or has no relationship to the principal use or tenant of the property. This also includes anything related to the trade dress of the tenant or use.

At least that's kind of what I said in a zoning code I wrote during my :texas: year. I think.

I've heard urbanists in Buffalo defend the notoriously amateurish hand-painted signs that many corner stores and East Side businesses display as "folk art". What do you think?

View attachment 51016
I'd probably like to add the "trade dress" language to what I've provided here. If not to differentiate from art, then to do so between signs and architectural treatment, which might be a whole other thread. Example, at what point to you call the treatment on a gas station canopy a "sign?" Sunoco trade dress with several colors and checker flag pattern? Gas station canopy in three colors for Mobil? Does it matter if it's different architectural features colored differently versus paint on a uniform surface?
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
19,161
Points
71
We have those too and yeah I think they should get some historic protection so they can be maintained - thank you for the reminder - they are interesting and were commonly found on brick buildings on the border of a core business district, or in our case, a river
They're not ghost signs, but really amateurish signs that detract from what could be an otherwise attractive building. Most have been painted in the past 30 years by one or two individuals, they didn't conform to the sign regulations in place then, and they don't conform now. I hate the look of them, personally, which means I probably lose a few points of authentic, real urbanist cred. There's ways to do inexpensive and/or artsy signage without having it look like an eight-year old made it.

I'd probably like to add the "trade dress" language to what I've provided here. If not to differentiate from art, then to do so between signs and architectural treatment, which might be a whole other thread. Example, at what point to you call the treatment on a gas station canopy a "sign?" Sunoco trade dress with several colors and checker flag pattern? Gas station canopy in three colors for Mobil? Does it matter if it's different architectural features colored differently versus paint on a uniform surface?
In my opinion, banding in trade dress is signage. Depends on your definition of "sign", really. A sign doesn't necessarily have to have words or a logo.

From the FBC that we just adopted.

canopy.png


A canopy at a neighborhood service station must have these design features.
  • Coverage: ≤ 2,000 ft².
  • Same cladding, trim, roof form and materials, and colors as the principal building.
  • Canopy support columns or posts ≥ 1.5’ wide, with similar cladding and trim materials as the principal building.
  • Fascia color must match the main color of the neighborhood service station building.
  • No fascia striping, banding, or internal illumination.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,230
Points
59
I professionally disagree about most trade dress/color coordinated banding concerns as 'signage'.

I've managed alot of signage enforcement so far and I think banding and striping as signage is too much over reach and waste of precious administrative time, but I fully understand the that individual communities will vary.

It's a solution looking for a problem, in my professional opinion.
 
Last edited:

dw914er

Cyburbian
Messages
1,542
Points
21
From the FBC that we just adopted.

View attachment 51018

A canopy at a neighborhood service station must have these design features.
  • Coverage: ≤ 2,000 ft².
  • Same cladding, trim, roof form and materials, and colors as the principal building.
  • Canopy support columns or posts ≥ 1.5’ wide, with similar cladding and trim materials as the principal building.
  • Fascia color must match the main color of the neighborhood service station building.
  • No fascia striping, banding, or internal illumination.

I like the rendering of a Tesla at the fuel station :D.

That said, I assume that your jurisdiction doesn't want fuel stations; I wouldn't be able to pull off such requirements here.
 
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