Utah artist told he must change his strip club mural design — and that all murals must be painted with ‘neutral earth-tone’ colors

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Shae Petersen in front of one of his murals on 300 West and 3300 South in South Salt Lake. Petersen is a muralist trying to get a mural painted on the side of the Exotic Kitty strip club in South Salt Lake. Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.

A Utah artist said he’s been told to change the design for a mural he had planned to paint on the side of a South Salt Lake strip club — and that all murals in the city must now follow neutral color palettes.

Shae Petersen, an award-winning artist who signs his work SRIL, says he met with South Salt Lake officials on Wednesday and was told to alter his proposal to paint a stylized panther and a woman teasing a bare shoulder on the side of the Exotic Kitty, a strip club at 3055 S. State St.

The South Salt Lake arts council had given full approval of his original design, but the city planning commission denied Petersen a permit in December, saying the mural wasn’t really a mural but a sign advertising Exotic Kitty — a violation of a city ordinance for sexually oriented businesses.

On Wednesday, Petersen says he was given a new stipulation — all murals in South Salt Lake must follow a “neutral earth-tone color palette.”

Petersen, who received an award from South Salt Lake for a mural of Greek gods he painted in 2015 near the corner of 3300 South and 300 West, said he’d never heard that before.

“It’s fine if they want me to change the design, but then they dropped this color palette restriction on me,” Petersen said. “They didn’t give me any guidelines as to what that means at all.”

The new rule could also be problematic for the city, which is set to host the first-ever South Salt Lake Mural Festival on May 19.

Lesly Allen, who heads the South Salt Lake Arts Council and created the mural festival, said she hadn’t been made aware of the color palette rule and so couldn’t comment on it.

“We’re trying to get some clarification,” said Allen. “The Mural Festival is my event and I’m really trying to wrap my brain around what’s going on. We’ve been so excited and had such a great response from artists. It’s going to be a really great thing for the city.”

Petersen had been slated to paint two pieces as part of the festival, but said he may have to pull out if the color palette restrictions are in place.

“I told the city that green is a natural earth-tone color, would I be allowed to use green? And they said it depends on the green.”

South Salt Lake city planner Alexandra White, who Petersen said was present at Wednesday’s meeting along with a city attorney and Petersen’s attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.

Petersen said he will confer with his attorney before a formal city hearing on the matter takes place in two weeks. He said it’s possible he may wind up taking the city to court.

“They’ve put me in a position where I have nowhere to go,” he said.

“They want me to change it, but without knowing what colors I can use, I don’t know what to do. I don’t think it could be a woman or a cat at all. I don’t know what to propose.”