• Courtney

The Public Art Movement - Rules and Regulations

Is it Art or is it Signage?

Murals can be considered signs that are regulated by the City. Unfortunately knowing what is "Art" and what is Advertising is not left up to the Artist or the business owner anymore. Disputes between local zoning authorities and owners of murals have become more and more common in recent years. If you are interested in creating a piece of public art on your building you must educate yourself or you could be left with hefty fines and grounds for immediate removal. If you sell fish and paint a marine scene without a permit or understanding of size beware of the consequences as it could be considered advertising and those fish must meet all height and width requirements of signage within the city.

Working with an artist or company that has a proper understanding of rules and regulations within the city and county is a must. It is everyone's responsibility to work with city officials, follow the rules set forth, understand the need for them, and create the Public Art Movement necessary for our community to thrive. How else are we going to make an impact and change the world through Art!? And we all know too many rules can stunt the creative process, but it can't stop it.

There are many variables in determining what your city will allow and how large your mural or advertisement can be. Is your property within 500 feet of the interstate? In a Historic Overlay? City? County? Business use? Facing a Major Road? What is the linear footage of the building facing that road? etc. Offices are typically allotted 5% of a wall and Commercial and Industrial spaces 10% of a wall.

You can visit the new 39-page Knoxville City ordinance to decipher which questions you must ask yourself to be approved in pulling a permit:​http://www.knoxvilletn.gov/UserFiles/Servers/Server_109478/File/CityCouncil/sign/signordinance_final.pdf

The Process

When a client decides they want to talk about a mural Knoxville Graphic House comes out to take a look and give ideas of possibilities. We take photos of the space and listen closely to the needs of the owner. Usually the client is so excited it is hard for them to be patient while the design process takes place, totally understandable because we are just as excited. Art is our Life! We generate our concepts right on top of the photos to render how it would look when finished. You get a realistic perspective making it much easier to edit and finalize your thoughts. Once the design is approved we take it to the city for approval and if necessary pull the proper permitting. We typically ask for 2 weeks notice from approval to start date to insure our time is scheduled properly, paint is mixed, equipment is rented, and everything is in order to begin.

Interior Murals

The sky is the limit when it comes to painting inside your business. This space is free range for our clients and we have done some pretty amazing indoor murals. You can see the mural for Soccer Taco in Downtown Knoxville. They wanted us to marry the concept of the Day of the Dead and Soccer. Unique? Memorable? You bet! We jumped at the opportunity and had a blast throughout the entire project. Go by and grab something to eat next time you are in the area!


Pricing varies by artist or company but the main factors stay the same. Design time? Is it on a smooth

surface or rough? Is it way up high or down so low the artist will need to spend a week on their knees!? Size? How detailed? Paint Cost? Equipment Rentals (we have been known for having fun on a variety of lifts.) Permit Costs? Days, Weeks, or Months on the Job?

One time we painted a mural that spanned the hallways of the Kimberly Clark Corporation which took 3 months! Our Murals can range anywhere from $18-$25 a square foot depending on the job.

KGH is properly insured to be on the ladders and equipment you see which is so important to the client and sometimes not the case for most artists. Always ask the artist you are working with to provide insurance!

Alternatives to Murals

Graphic Wallpaper is a less expensive option that is fantastic! Our clients are always pleased with the turnout and you can achieve so many great looks. We create the piece in Illustrator and then print it on a fabric vinyl that comes in 2-3 ft wide sections. The installation can usually be done in one day and can give any space that ultimate spark.

Choosing a creative team that is right for your needs can be daunting. The images throughout are just a few fun projects we have been blessed to be a part of. One of our favorites was when we restored our new space on the corner of 21st and Ailor Ave in Knoxville, TN. We created a design that gave onlookers a smile and our mission was to invite the community to a local block party and participate. This piece is not considered an advertisement, just a fun painting for Knoxville to enjoy. The Mural is of the daughter of Courtney Jernigan, Owner and Creative Director at Knoxville Graphic House and has been nominated for the Orchid Award in Knoxville. The mural is nationally recognized by Graphic Design USA as the winner of the American InHouse Design Award. Publication to come out in late August.

Call Knoxville Graphic House today to talk about what we can do for your space.


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2017 Ailor Ave | Knoxville TN, 37921

Monday - Thursday | 8 am - 5 pm 
By appointment only

Woman-Owned Small Business Certified

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