Street murals boosted Penang’s economy, CM tells artist after ‘circus’ remark

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says the famous murals painted by Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic nearly 10 years ago boosted the state’s economy and increased its brand value in the world tourism market, a day after the artist voiced regret that his work had turned George Town into what he called “a circus”.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event here today, Chow said the activity along certain streets in the state capital was merely a reflection of the people’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“If they think they can make a living by setting up a cafe, they should be allowed to do so. It is the entrepreneurial spirit of the locals that we must not curb,” he added.

Yesterday, Zacharevic said he had considered erasing his murals after seeing traditional trades in George Town replaced with souvenir shops over the years.

Zacharevic, who drew the famous “Children on the Bicycle” mural in 2012, also commended the city council for tearing down the illegal extension of a cafe just beside the mural.

He said strict enforcement was necessary to maintain the original character of the heritage site.

Chow agreed, saying all developments including the construction and extension of buildings must go through the city council beforehand.

He said George Town’s original character had been preserved through strict zoning guides in the World Heritage Site that stipulate what kind of businesses can be conducted in any given area.