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Uptown Mural Artist Who Signed Waiver Is Town Employee

Mural and Beaufort buildings
Ryan Denham
The mural has become a symbol in a larger debate about the $30 million Trail East project in Uptown Normal, led by developer Bush Construction.

The identity of the mystery Uptown Normal mural artist who signed over his rights has been revealed – though the legal fight over the public artwork could soon be rendered moot if the Town of Normal fulfills its promise to safely move it.

Wayne Aldrich, the town’s former Uptown development director and now public works chief, signed a “Waiver of Rights Under the Visual Artists Rights Act” on April 29. That was five days after 13 of the other mural artists filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Normal and developer Bush Construction, claiming copyright law prohibited the destruction of the mural to make room for the $30 million Trail East project.

WGLT obtained a copy of the waiver Friday through a Freedom of Information Act request. Town attorney Brian Day confirmed Aldrich was the artist in question.

The town first acknowledged it had such a waiver in a July 2 court filing. At that time it declined to reveal the artist’s name. The artist was Aldrich.

The town argues the mural is a “joint work” under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), meaning just one of the artists can waive his or her rights and have it applied to the whole piece. An attorney for the 13 artists says he doesn’t think it’s a “joint work.”

The waiver’s significance is murky in part because the future of the lawsuit itself is unclear. It was filed to stop the mural from being destroyed. But now the Town of Normal says it plans to move—not destroy—the mural. That will cost $100,000, and the town may try to force one or more of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs to pay the bill.

“We are also pursuing avenues to recoup the costs of that relocation from other responsible parties,” Day told WGLT earlier this month.

The town and Bush plan to demolish three buildings on Beaufort Street to make room for the mixed-use Trail East project. The mural will be sliced off, reinforced, and temporarily stored until a new permanent display location is found.

It’s unclear when demolition and construction will begin. The town said previously that could happen in July. There are signs it could start soon. Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene reported July 9 that Maggie Miley’s, at the town’s request, recently removed its deck, apparently in preparation for Trail East construction.

“We are discussing the timing and specifics of the move with the developer and specialists,” Day said.

The lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing Aug. 2.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.