A year ago, Jason Brown turned the outside wall of his store, New American Casuals (NAC), into a canvas for aerosol artists. It became a kaleidoscope of colors; balloon lettering seemed to leap off the wall. But within a few days, Brown was contacted by the city for violating the city's moratorium on new murals. A few weeks later, without warning, the city's Graffiti Abatement Team swooped in and rolled gray paint over Brown's mural.

But last weekend, Brown once again put up another mural. "If they want to arrest me for painting my building," Brown said, "let them."

Five years ago, Clear Channel won a $1 million lawsuit against the city after it was denied permits for billboards around town--an amount the city has yet to pay. At the time, the media conglomerate complained that the city was violating free-speech allowances by regulating billboards but allowing free reign for murals. The courts agreed and, in response, city council created a "sign code" that lumped murals in with billboards.

This past December, Mayor Vera Katz pledged she would straighten out the mess. But since then, there has barely been a peep from her office. Meanwhile artists and storeowners are growing impatient.

The battlefront over murals is being defined by three storefronts in the city--the wall outside NAC, the front wall of Bishops on NE 28th, and Mirador on SE Division. Decisions on all these murals are pending. What happens with them could determine the fate of the sign code.

On Saturday, three prominent muralists will present a slide show of their work. The event is being hosted at a private residence, 2116 NE 18th, but is open to the public, 7-10 pm, $10-$25 donation requested. The money is being raised to pay fees for murals.