A Florida couple has won a legal dispute with their town that will allow them to keep their house painted to match the famous painting The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.
Nancy Nemhauser and Lubomir Jastrzebski of Mt. Dora, Florida, just outside of Orlando, initially decided to paint the wall outside their home to mimic Van Gogh’s painting. They then expanded the mural to include their house after being told the wall had to match the house.
The couple commissioned the mural for their autistic son, whose favorite painting is Starry Night. They thought that if he ever got lost, he could simply tell someone that he lived in the Starry Night house, making it easy for anyone in Mt. Dora to bring him back home.
However, the town of Mt. Dora claimed that a mural likened to one of the most famous paintings in the world could distract drivers and was akin a business sign that violated a local ordinance. Nancy and Lubomir were told to paint over it and pay in excess of $10,000 in fines.
But the couple fought back, all while their house became a famous landmark in Mt. Dora. In February, they filed a lawsuit claiming the paint job was an expression of free speech.
After many months, that lawsuit was finally settled this week when the Mt. Dora city council reached an agreement with Nancy and Lubomir. The town waived the fines, agreed to pay the couple $15,000 for their legal fees, and made the house exempt from future ordinances. The couple was also able to negotiate a public apology from Mt. Dora Mayor Nick Girone.
“We are absolutely delighted and ecstatic,” said Nancy. “I’m unhappy that we had to go through all of this, but the ending is a happy ending.”
“It’s a big day for the arts,” added Richard Barrenechea, a local artist who designed the mural. “It’s a big day for Mount Dora, and a big day for freedom.”