Wall art or graffiti?

August 7, 2017

The definition of “art,” the rights of local property owners, and consideration of neighbors were all topics of discussion at Thursday morning’s city council meeting in regards to a downtown business’ exterior wall.

Local attorney E.J. Garcia was on hand to discuss the north wall of his office on the square, which has featured spray painted messages from Brownfield High School graduates since May.

Garcia told the council he invited the seniors to paint on the wall — including their name, choice of college, and their chosen majors — in hopes of starting a tradition local students can aspire to.

“I don’t want this to be my wall,” he told the council. “The vision is for this to be our wall. I was born here and I moved my family here several years ago and we have fallen in love with Brownfield.”

Garcia said he appreciates recent efforts to beautify the city’s downtown, but he argued the wall can be a part of that cause.

“The best things I have are the things on my refrigerator that my kids made for me,” he said. “This is our city’s chance to have one last thing from our kids saying ‘this is what we did for you guys’.”

The attorney said he works with juveniles in the justice system and hopes to use the wall as a goal for his young clients.

“I have already walked two of them out there and shown them that wall,” he said. “I told them I want them to get their stuff together and finish school and paint their info on my wall.”

Councilman Leon Pope asked if painting on the wall violates any city codes, but he was told by City Attorney Lena Trevino that it does not.

Garcia said he doesn’t want to be at odds with the city.

“I don’t want to fight with my town,” he said. “I want us all on the same page and I want us all to be proud of what this wall can be. It will be opened up to the full senior class.”

He assured the council that no profanity or obscenity would be allowed on the wall and if that did occur the offensive paint would be covered as soon as it is discovered.

Garcia added that he has plans of painting a professional mural on the wall with space for seniors to paint their own artwork within it, which will be covered and repainted with each graduating class.

Dr. Kelly Riley, who owns an adjacent building on the square addressed the matter and said she would like to know the timeline.

“Currently, the state of the wall is not favorable to me, but knowing Mr. Garcia’s idea, I’m okay moving forward,” she said. “I’m ok with it becoming a tradition. My only concern being a business owner is that to people who are unaware of what the plan is, it looks like graffiti.”

Pope said, “The difference between art, graffiti, and vandalism is a matter of opinion, but this breaks down to, is it legal? It is your building and it is your wall.”

Garcia apologized for not visiting with Dr. Riley in advance and informing her of the plan.

“That was my mistake,” he said. “I wasn’t very neighborly.”  

Mayor Tom Hesse encouraged him to visit with other business owners on the square and get their feedback about the project.

There was no action taken on the matter.

In other business, the council reappointed Ricky Dunn to represent Brownfield on the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority board of directors.

His term expired July 31, but he agreed to serve again. There are no term limits for the position.

Also relating to CRMWA, the council opted to authorize that board to refinance bonds that could result in savings for each member city.

Renegotiating a 20-year bond, which retires in 2029, could save the city as much as $50,000 over the remaining 12 years.

Both items were approved unanimously.

The council also voted to appoint Yvonne Rocha to the Zoning Board of Adjustments to fulfil the unexpired term of Bobby Vaughan who moved away from Brownfield last month.

The full council was present for the meeting, to include: Ricky Rocha, Chuck Nave, Tresa Sparks, Leon Pope, Mayor Tom Hesse, Mary Valdonado, Ray McFarland, and Mike Swaringen.

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