Talks about replacing Woody Allen in the Ann Arbor mural resumed after a new documentary

ANN ARBOR, MI – A large mural along Liberty Street depicting Woody Allen and four other famous writers has been part of the downtown Ann Arbor landscape for 37 years.

But since a new HBO documentary series aired that revisited the 1992 allegations that Allen molested his 7-year-old daughter, the question of whether to remove him from the mural has re-emerged, and Allen’s picture has become recently with a spray painted X and defaced the word “rapist”.

“Who should replace Woody Allen on this downtown mural?” a member of the Ann Arbor Townies! The Facebook group asked this week and generated hundreds of responses, from American writer Kurt Vonnegut to Ann Arbor-born musicians Iggy Pop and Bob Seger to Madonna, the pop star who once lived in Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan visited.

“The Bookstore Mural,” as it is known, was painted in 1984 by artist Richard Wolk outside Discount Records, now the Potbelly Sandwich Shop, and David’s books. In addition to all of them, Edgar Allan Poe, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka and Anais Nin can be seen.

The mural has occasional random graffiti, but the specific orientation of all of them was unusual, said Jeff Hauptman, CEO of Oxford Companies, owner of the building, noting that his maintenance team has already covered the graffiti.

What’s not new are calls to replace Allen on the mural – people ask about it every few years, Hauptman said, being open to the idea of ​​whether the city’s Historic District Commission would allow it. Oxford is more than happy to listen to public opinion and try to do the right thing, he said.

“I can appreciate the frustration people have when they see Woody Allen there,” Hauptman said, adding that whoever replaces Allen should be a different writer and he likes the idea of ​​replacing him with a wife to have more variety.

Hauptman said he liked the idea some suggested: the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ever since she wrote legal opinions, “I think that matters,” he said.

“It would be one of my first decisions,” he said, calling it his initial gut reaction, although he also likes the idea of ​​adding a black writer.

The question of who could replace Allen continues to be discussed in online forums.

Some of the many other suggestions from the Ann Arbor Townies! Discussions include poets Amanda Gorman and Maya Angelou, science fiction writer Octavia Butler, novelists Toni Morrison and Ayn Rand, and Joe Dart, bassist for the funk group Vulfpeck, which originated in Ann Arbor.

Others suggested the poet Robert Frost, who taught at UM and lived in Ann Arbor in the 1920s, street musicians Shakey Jake and the violin monster of Ann Arbor, Michigan soccer coach Bo Schembechler, and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who became the 1971 Pioneer Graduated from Ann Arbor High School.

The unlikely suggestions include wrestler Hulk Hogan, as well as actors Keanu Reeves and Mr. T.

Others suggested reggae musician Bob Marley, first lady Michelle Obama, and musicians Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa.

And some argue, Allen should be innocent until proven guilty, and not replaced on charges.

Iggy Pop, who once worked in the old Discount Records store that was in the building where the mural is now painted, seemed like a popular suggestion to replace Allen until others pointed out an old Iggy Pop lyric : “I slept with Sable when she was 13 / Her parents were too rich to do anything. “

Another person pointed out that Edgar Allan Poe, pictured in the mural, married his 13-year-old cousin when he was 27.

“Not a real person,” replied someone else when asked who should replace Woody Allen. “We all have skeletons. Some much bigger than others. “

Wall painter Richard Wolk mixed paint in September 2010 while touching up the mural he originally painted on the corner of Liberty Street and State Street in downtown Ann Arbor in 1984.Melanie Maxwell | The Ann Arbor News

Wolk, who has come back several times over the years to touch up the mural, could not be reached for comment but said he chose Allen in 2010 as the mural is near both the state theater and the Michigan theaters. And since Allen is both a writer and a filmmaker, “he definitely counts,” Wolk said in 2010.

Hauptman recalled that many years ago there was a proposal to modify the building that included removing the section of the mural with all of it on it. The Historic District Commission wouldn’t allow that, he said.

When the commission tells him that the mural itself is not protected, “I am open to change,” Hauptman said, noting that the commission controls changes to facades in the historic district.

Since the mural was painted after 1944, it is not considered historic, said city planner Jill Thacher, the city’s monument preservation coordinator. She has no record of the commission denying a building modification that would have affected the mural, she said.

The mural is painted on panels attached to the historic brick facade of the building. In the early 2000s, Potbelly wanted to remove the part including Allen to expose an original wood and glass shop entrance along Liberty Street, but the commission was against changing the mural, Hauptman said.

Given that, Oxford felt “kind of stuck” when people asked about Allen to be replaced over the years, he said.

However, this may no longer be the case.

The chapter on the historic monument protection of the city was replaced by a new one in 2008, said Thacher.

“The mural could be changed by me today, with the approval of an HDC staff, as long as the new content doesn’t promote anything and doesn’t expand the range of colors,” she said, adding that it’s good that it’s painted on blackboards and not the original brick.


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