Is it Art, or Advertising?

By Beacon Staff

Is it art, or is the ice cream cone painted on the side of Mrs. Spoonover’s building an advertisement to sell frozen desserts? The latest clash over the City of Whitefish’s sign ordinance has even kids leaping into the fray.

After Mrs. Spoonover’s moved to its new location on the southwest corner of Second Street East and Spokane Avenue early this summer, several artists donated an ice cream cone mural for one side of the building. But the painting rankled the city, which claims the ice cream cone is an advertisement for products sold in the café.

Judy Scallen, owner of Mrs. Spoonover’s, and a host of her kid clientele think otherwise. “It’s about the children,” she said. A petition of support for the ice cream cone mural contains over 150 signatures. The petition started with teens, and at least half of the signatures belong to kids – some showing the blocky gait of kindergarten pens.

In early July, Scallen received a letter from City Attorney John Phelps, which said, “Under the City’s Sign Ordinance, this painting is a sign, used to advertise or draw attention to your business … We have to enforce the City’s Sign Ordinance consistently with everyone.” The letter gave her 15 days to paint over the mural.

The ice cream cone was designed by Carolyn Churchouse and painted by Kristie Caratelli and Shelby Powell – all three instructors at Stumptown Art Studio. The mural covered up a painting of a film canister from the previous business, a photo shop. It’s one of several murals around town, some of which are much larger than the ice cream cone.

Scallen refused to paint over the sign. “I think Whitefish is out of control,” she said. Instead, on the shop’s behalf, attorney Sharon Morrison has requested a hearing in front of the city attorney and Planning Director David Taylor.

“The kids want to keep the ice cream mural up,” Scallen said. “I guess we’ll just wait.”

Photo by Mark Riffey, for the Beacon