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Curvaceous mermaid mural on mayor's home stirs trouble in small North Carolina town

Mark Price, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in News & Features

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A mural depicting a curvaceous and scantily clad mermaid is causing trouble for the newly elected mayor of a North Carolina beach town.

The painting in question is on the side of Oak Island Mayor Ken Thomas' home, and some say he "incited" citizens by making the seemingly innocent mistake of asking people what they thought of it.

"Isn't she beautiful?" Thomas said in a Jan. 3 Facebook post. "I had this done long before I intended to run for office and while I'm sorry it may offend some people. Art is intended to be beautiful and thought provoking."

He concluded his post, which appeared on an official town Facebook page, by asking people to message him with any concerns over the painting.

What has followed is an ongoing debate over whether the mermaid qualifies as great art or is just plain sexist, undignified and/or inappropriate for the side of a city leader's home. Oak Island is a town of about 8,000 people on the Intracoastal Waterway.

"If you're looking for a Vegas type environment, he's started the ball rolling," Gina Bee responded to the mayor's post.

"They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words ... it speaks volumes to the type of dude you really are," Kim Baldwin wrote.

"Is this the new image for Oak Island," Bill Craft asked.

Some also suggested the post itself was "not a very Mayoral post" for an official town Facebook page, and showed a lack of priority. Thomas was elected in November and sworn in Dec. 17.

 

"It will incite the people who did not vote for you and cause the ones who did to defend and argue with the others," Becky Holert posted. "Why would you post something that very obviously will cause a divisive argument?"

Thomas has had the mural on his Oak Island Drive house since 2018, and he doesn't believe it's sexist, the Wilmington Star News reports. "All art can't appeal to all people," Thomas told the newspaper. "This art appeals to me."

Some people have agreed on Facebook, saying they not only like the mural, but think it qualifies as a "beautiful painting."

Still others found humor in the idea that Thomas ran on a promise of "transparency" and is now defending a mermaid wearing close to nothing.

"All I can say is campaign promise made, campaign promise kept," Steve Apple wrote on Facebook. "This painting is very 'transparent' and no 'cover up' here."

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