Art or violation?

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Local artist told displays violate code

Local artist Kyle “black cat tips” Brooks has made a name for himself selling his artwork in the Atlanta area. Brooks, a DeKalb County resident for more than a decade, said he purchased his home and land near Lithonia because he wanted a place to display his material.

 However, some people are questioning whether his artwork is in violation of the county’s code. Brooks said he was told by DeKalb County Code Enforcement that his displays were illegal. Without warning, Brooks was given a court date for May 23 to answer to his alleged violations, he said.

                                        

 

 “No letters, no calls…nothing,” Brooks said. “I got a visit last week from a code enforcement officer and he went on to tell me I was in violation of the county’s code and what I was doing was illegal. I can go to court and I can talk to the judge and maybe they could just give me a fine, but I thought ‘no, this happened to me for a reason’ and I want to tell all my art supporters and friends.”

 Brooks created a post on his Facebook page “Black Cat Tips- the art of Kyle Brooks,” and shared his accounts of what happened. He wrote, “We moved here because we wanted to make the area even better and be a light in the community. Happy, fun art should not be illegal.”

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 As of May 3, Brooks’ Facebook post has been shared more than 900 times. Nonetheless, Brooks’ front yard does not currently showcase any large displays of smiling faces. Brooks said he removed his artwork because he “didn’t want any trouble.”

 Brooks, who lives off Klondike Road in Lithonia, said he’s overwhelmed by the community support he’s receiving. He said several people called code enforcement officials on his behalf.

 Initially, Brooks said his interaction with the code enforcement officer didn’t bother him until he was told that his displays were not art.

 “The [code enforcement officer] pointed at the different things in my yard...he said anything with words on it can’t be art...in my head I thought ‘I don’t think that’s legitimate...who is he to tell me what’s art?’” Brooks said.

 County officials said the issue isn’t with Brooks’ content of his signs, but the size of his displays. According to the county, Brooks was cited for non-permitted signs.

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 “DeKalb County Code, Chapter 21, prohibits the posting, displaying or erecting of signs without a valid sign permit. Signs in residential areas shall be no greater than 24 square feet in size and no [higher than] 4 feet above the ground. In this case, the resident’s signs are greater than the measurements allowed under the code. His court date is not punitive; rather, a decision will be made by the judge whether the pieces on his property fit the definition of a sign or not,” county officials said in a statement.

 Brooks said he wants his house to be known as a stopping point for the community and create a conversation.

 “Most of my art is just dogs, bears, smiley faces and funny stuff. It makes me happy, and in turn it makes other people happy,” Brooks said.

 

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