PORTLAND (AP) – City officials have agreed to meet with a group of artists who object to ordinances that they say discourage them from setting up easels on sidewalks and selling their work to the public.

A group of 10 painters and photographers staged a protest in the city’s Arts District on Saturday to draw attention to the city rules.

A lawyer for the Maine Civil Liberties Union showed up to voice his support. And city officials dropped by to arrange a meeting with the artists from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Portland Public Library.

The artists, using the name Artists Social Awareness Program, were protesting two city ordinances. One prohibits them from selling their work on public sidewalks without a vendor’s license, and the other requires a city permit to set up an easel or table on Portland streets.

The vendor’s license costs $225, and the permit costs $40 for the first hour and $35 for each additional hour.

City spokesman Peter DeWitt said the city is concerned about liability issues, and that artists will be asked to move if they block a sidewalk.

The city also has a duty to regulate business, he said.

“If you’re having a farmer’s market in Monument Square and they have to obtain permits, and if you’re selling your art and doing business, you have to obtain a permit,” he said.

As part of the protest Saturday, Ian Factor painted a scene of a friend reading by some trees outside the Portland Museum of Art.

Factor said that if easels are a liability problem, so are people who push baby strollers and leave their bikes parked on the sidewalks.

Factor said similar rules are popping up all over the country, including Boston and San Francisco. When the same kind of thing happened in New York, he said, artists in Greenwich Village mounted similar protests and defeated them.

Factor believes it’s hypocritical for a city that promotes an arts district to hamper the work of artists, especially considering it is the artists who turned the district into an attraction.

“If Portland wants to be an art-friendly city,” he said, “they need to make some changes.”

AP-ES-07-11-04 1124EDT

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