ENCINITAS — To honor the late Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan, organizers behind the annual Arts Alive program intended to display 100 banners with Houlihan’s image on the backside. Houlihan was known for supporting the arts in Encinitas.
As part of a 13-year tradition, the banners also feature various artists’ paintings. In a controversial move, the banners were rejected by City Manager Gus Vina late last fall. According to Vina, the banners violate the city’s banner ordinance.
Vina ruled the backside of the banners were “political” because of a section in the city’s banner ordinance that states: “Said banners are for civic and nonprofit city-wide recognized special events.”
According to Vina, Houlihan is a political figure and therefore shouldn’t appear on the back of banners that are for a city event.
“She was about more than the arts,” Vina said. There’s an inconsistency in the content of the banners.” It’s no different than MLK or JFK appearing on banners.”
Mayor Jerome Stocks, who often disagreed with Houlihan when she served on the City Council, agrees with Vina’s interpretation. But he insists he had no hand in dismissing the banners.
“This is not me versus anybody,” Stocks said. “The banners were simply against the city’s municipal code.”
The 101 Artists Colony, Cardiff 101 Mainstreet, Leucadia Mainstreet and the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association collaborated on the Arts Alive banners.
The banners ran into early trouble when DEMA voted to withdraw its permit to display the banners.
“What was originally described to us in the application for the permit was drastically different than what was submitted,” DEMA President Treggon Owens said.
In order to display a modified version of the banners and block out Houlihan’s likeness, organizers from Arts Alive spent $800 on vinyl material to cover the backside of the posters, according to Danny Salzhandler, who coordinated the project.
Arts Alive will display the artists’ paintings at 2 p.m. on Feb. 4 at 1950 N. Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia. According Salzhandler, Houlihan’s image will still be visible.
Following a reception and auction, the backside of the banners will be covered. Artists will then hang up the banners on light poles from Leucadia to Cardiff. The banners will be on display until May.
The banners were also unveiled in their original form at an art show and concert at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Jan. 18.
“The banners were added as an afterthought to the show,” Salzhandler said. “But they got a really good reaction from the crowd. Not everybody knew who she was, but the entire crowd was really cheering.”
Salzhandler added:“We never intended for the banners to be political in any way,” he said. “We just wanted to honor someone who was sitting on the City Council.”