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Home is Where the Art is at the “Starry Night” House in Mt. Dora


Have you heard about the Van Gogh-inspired “Starry Night” house in Mt. Dora? The home has become a local roadside attraction over the course of the past year.

When we first caught wind of this unusual code-enforcement story, it seemed to contradict the heart of this creative hub for artistic souls. Mt. Dora is truly one of the most artistic, quaint communities in the Sunshine State that prides itself on supporting the arts. The controversy not only grabbed our attention it garnered national publicity.

In a nutshell, homeowners Nancy Nemhauser and Lubomir Jastrzebski commissioned artist Richard Barrenechea to paint a plain masonry wall in front of their home on Old U.S. Highway 441 near downtown Mt. Dora. They have a 25-year old son with autism who is comforted by Van Gogh-inspired colorful designs which is what motivated them to paint the wall in the first place. Well, city officials didn’t agree with the family’s art selection. To make matters worse, they abandoned their original claim that the interpretation of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” was a graffiti code violation and determined it was an illegal sign.

They trampled the couple’s First Amendment rights by ordering them to remove the mural and threatening significant fines. It’s interesting to note that home colors and murals are not addressed in the City of Mount Dora codes. Additionally, this home is not in a homeowners association (HOA) and is not deed-restricted.

At one point, city officials told them the masonry wall had to match the house. The homeowners directed Barrenechea to carry the “Starry Night” theme over to their house as well.

Mt. Dora residents have shown their support by writing letters and sending emails to the homeowners, the artist and the city. In addition, an online petition by residents was created to urge city officials to keep the mural. The Change.org petition has garnered over 12,000 signatures to date.

The homeowners reached a milestone this week when the Mount Dora City Council voted unanimously to settle the lawsuit, allowing them to keep their mural. In addition, Mt. Dora Mayor Nick Girone provided them with a public apology.

AuthenticFlorida, excerpt posted on SouthFloridaReporter.com, July 21, 2018

A Florida resident since 1974, Melanie Lentz-Janney is the owner/CXO of AuthenticFlorida.com, a travel and lifestyle blog devoted to the Sunshine State's most unique and quirkiest treasures. Authentic Florida is intended to inspire discovery of the accessible, yet under-appreciated areas of the state as well as celebrating good old-fashioned Florida kitsch. Lentz-Janney’s lifelong passion has been discovering Florida’s genuine side – some old, some new – with a focus on “fun and affordable.” Authentic Florida has been recognized as the BEST Blog of the Year, the BEST Travel Blog (twice), and BEST Food Blog at the Florida Sunshine Awards. Lentz-Janney is a member of Florida Outdoor Writers Association and the Society of American Travel Writers. She is also a well-respected marketing expert and an award-winning filmmaker.


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