By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE (December 5)—As red, white and blue as the heart of a U.S. veteran, the enormous flag at the corner of Main and Park appears to snap briskly in the breeze. Painted by Travis Walchle of Montrose, the gorgeous mural that graces the front wall of the Warrior Resource Center (11 South Park Ave.) is intended to honor the veterans who have given so much to our community and our country. However, no soldiers are yet depicted on the mural itself as originally planned, because to do so would constitute a violation of the City of Montrose’s signage code.
“The soldiers standing guard in front of the flag are considered to be a ‘sign,’ because since veterans are who we serve, it is interpreted that they represent our ‘business,’” said Melanie Kline of the Warrior Resource Center. “All of that is debatable, since we really aren’t anything but a non-profit organization. We are still deciding what to do. Because of this, we only have a certain amount of square feet for signage allowed on the whole building, for all tenants.”
Nobody is especially upset about the situation, she said, noting that options include painting a single guard standing at attention near the edge of the flag by the windows, or applying for a variance to the City’s sign code.
“We love the flag rendering so much that we sort of hate to cover it in any way,” Kline said.
Property owner Ralph Walchle sandblasted the wall on which the mural was painted by his son Travis, who donated his time and considerable artistic talent to the project.
“There is a rule that a mural can’t define a business,” Walchle said. “I don’t think the city is out of line; I think the rule started because of some of the bars in town. Anybody can paint a flag, but the soldiers represent what the business does. We’re trying to figure out what we can do, without opening the door to painted billboards.”
Walchle said that response to the flag mural has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I am pretty proud of Travis,” he said. “I would like to say I taught him everything he knows, but I didn’t.”
City Councilor Carol McDermott said that she doesn’t see much difference between the Warrior Center mural and other murals in the Downtown area.
“It is the times that are different,” she said. “I think we should adjust the sign code, or grant them a variance.
“We don’t want to be ‘over-signed,’” she said, “and we are working on being forward-thinking. Personally, I am in favor of the City looking at ways we can accommodate special works of art.”