The ‘Divine’ Mural In Baltimore Has An Uncertain Future

John Waters speaks out in support of the Mount Vernon mural

John Waters signs a 'Pink Flamingos' DVD at a book signing for 'Tennessee Willams Memoirs,'
Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

John Waters speaks out in support of the Mount Vernon mural

A future of a three-story mural on the side of a home in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore is in peril, and the matter is being taken to the city board. But this isn’t just any mural. It portrays Harris Glenn Milstead as his alter ego, Divine, who was made famous in many John Waters films like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray.

Baltimore Brew shared the story that the community and famed director Waters are fighting back so that Divine can remain immortalized on the side of the building, as a sort of “neighborhood watch.”

Waters publicly states that he fully supports the depiction of his longtime friend Divine, and believes that painting should remain on the Mount Vernon home, which is very close to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).

“Of course, I am for the mural. Have been there, taken friends and am fully supportive of the artistic choice of the homeowners and the positive influence on the neighborhood.”

Waters will testify on Tuesday at a meeting of the Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), who will take on the mural at 106 East Preston Street as the last business of the day.

CHAP says that the issue isn’t the mural’s content, but rather that the homeowners, Jesse Salazar and Tom Williams, didn’t get city permission or a permit before having the artist, Gaia craft the masterpiece of perhaps the world’s most famous Drag Queen. Salazar and Williams are now technically seeking permission “after the fact.”

The Baltimore Business Journal says that the mural depicts Divine making a “kissy face” with the phrase: “I’m So Beautiful” over his head. The actor, who died at age 42 in 1988 was the original Edna Turnblad in the first Hairspray movie opposite Ricki Lake.

The BBJ says that the future of the mural is in the hands of CHAP.

“CHAP’s commissioners include Chairman Thomas Liebel, City Councilman John Bullock, University of Maryland law professor Larry S. Gibson, architect Laura Penza and Abell Foundation President Robert Embry.”

PageSix says that CHAP will take into consideration a random claim that the paint used by the artist, Gaia could be doing some kind of irreparable damage to the building.

“The mural will be subject to a public hearing over worries not about content, but that the paint may harm the building and ‘overwhelm’ its historic character.”

Members of the Mount Vernon community appreciate the mural of Divine which is seen as a positive piece of art in the community.