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Here's an update on the fate of Baltimore's Divine mural

A Midtown-Belvedere married couple hired Baltimore-based artist Gaia to paint a mural of Divine on the side of their three-story home, but now the mural's fate is in flux because they did not seek approval or permits before its conception.
A Midtown-Belvedere married couple hired Baltimore-based artist Gaia to paint a mural of Divine on the side of their three-story home, but now the mural's fate is in flux because they did not seek approval or permits before its conception. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

City officials and community members will meet Tuesday to discuss the fate and legality of the Midtown-Belvedere mural of “Hairspray” actor and drag queen Divine during a public hearing hosted by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP).

The mural, painted by Baltimore-based street artist Gaia on the alley-facing wall of Preston Street, was commissioned by Midtown-Belvedere residents Jesse Salazar and Tom Williams. But the married couple did not receive permits or authorization for the mural from the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), which is required when altering the exterior of properties within Baltimore’s historic districts or local landmarks, according to Eric Holcomb, the commission’s executive director.

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Salazar, who hoped the mural would inspire the local LGBT community, has since applied for permits retroactively, which is pending, according to Holcomb.

The commission’s public hearing will take place Tuesday, where CHAP members will present findings and research on the mural, and Salazar and community members will be able to testify, Holcomb said. The Divine mural is slated to be the last thing on the public hearing’ s agenda.

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The mural has already received two emails of support from local residents, according to Holcomb. Filmmaker Waters has also voiced his support and visited the mural.

“I think Preston Street now has the ultimate Neighborhood Watch,” Waters wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun. “No crime will happen with Divine on duty.”

Waters’ assistant said the filmmaker would like to attend and will try to, but due to his schedule, it is uncertain.

The outcome is undetermined, but according to Holcomb, the art itself is not a problem.

“We’re not going to review the content of this artwork because we respect art that much,” Holcomb said of CHAP. “The idea that we are the judges and arbiters of art and historic districts is not what we do. We are there to preserve and make sure that the changes in the neighborhood respect the historic architecture and character of the neighborhood.”

You can learn more about the process and possible future proceedings here.

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