Art Or Advertising? And The Lost Context Of A Summary

Another entry in the “What is art” debate– A bakery owner in NH allowed students to paint a mural on his building. Because the mural depicted a sun rising over mountains made of donuts and muffins, last June the town said it was in violation of the sign ordinance restricting the size of advertisements. If the mountains had looked like mountains instead of baked goods, it would have been considered art, but because they were products sold by the business, the mural is considered an advertisement.

This caused a considerable amount of discussion in the town and apparently increased attendance at Zoning and Planning board meetings, but ultimately residents voted against a proposed change that would have provided clearer rules to allow for works of art.

An organization is submitting a federal case on behalf of the bakery which is leveraging the situation to fundraise for the local high school art department.

Since fighting for the right to display what Mr. Young maintains is a mural, Leavitt’s has become an advocate for the arts. The bakery recently began selling T-shirts with the mural on the front above the words “this is art,” and the Leavitt’s sign on the back with, “this is a sign.” Proceeds benefit the Kennett High School art department. And with the help of a local philanthropist, Leavitt’s is co-sponsoring a scholarship for one student a year from Kennett High who wants to pursue the arts.

“I’m not taking it down because it’s the kids’ artwork,” Mr. Young says.

The article has pictures of the mural and the tshirts. A number of the people interviewed for the story seemed pretty supportive of the mural, including a couple local government officials who appeared to have wanted to proposed change to pass in order to provide for greater clarity. While some people were concerned about murals going up willy-nilly and the appearance of billboards, it is pretty clear the bakery mural is not meant to be a sales advertisement. There are no words at all on that part of the building, nor are any figures beckoning people in.

As an aside, I noticed as I was re-reading the article that there is a feature that allows you to toggle between a Quick Read and Deep Read, with the latter indicating it make take 6 minutes to read the longer content. I think that must be how long it takes a computer to read it aloud, because that seems pretty long. I am not quite sure what to think about this feature. While folks do seem to have a shorter attention span and providing a shorter option may encourage people to engage with the topic, it also seems to suggest there is content that isn’t important to know and can be safely omitted.

Reading the abridged version of the article changes the tone of the article. The full article seems sympathetic toward the cause of the mural, the abridged version seems to suggest anarchy will break out in the absence of local self-governance.


About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment