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Junior League to paint over mural just created during film fest

By Bianca Montes
July 11, 2014 at 2:11 a.m.
Updated July 12, 2014 at 2:12 a.m.

A mural  painted on the side of the Children's Discovery Museum downtown may soon be painted over.

A mural painted on the side of a downtown building during the independent film festival is already slated to be removed, a decision that is leaving some locals a little blue.

Anthony Pedone, executive director of the Victoria TX Indie Film Fest, said in larger cities, the longevity of graffiti art is short, and the beauty of Victoria is that art curated during the festival had an actual chance of staying up for a long time.

"Because no one is here to cover it up," he said, "it has the opportunity to stand as a piece of fine art."

However, come summer's end, the mural painted on the side of the Children's Discovery Museum will be gone, said Victoria Junior League President Sara Hounshell, stating neither the artists nor officials with the film festival had permission to paint the wall.

The building at 204 N. Main St., which is called the Kreisle Building, is owned by the Junior League. It is valued at $65,260, according to data from the Victoria Central Appraisal District.

In an email, Hounshell said April Nunley, former league president, "discovered a group of people beginning to spray-paint something on the side of the Kreisle Building," and "they were informed that the Junior League owns the building, and they did not have permission to paint it.

"They said they understood, stopped painting and left."

The next day, April 5, Hounshell said the league saw the mural had been painted anyway. However, officials with the film festival said permission to paint was granted by Robby Burdge, the owner of a lot in between the building and the league's headquarters.

"If there is anyone to blame, it's me," Burdge said. "It's a simple deal. Yes, I own that property, but those are common walls, and when I talked to April Nunley, we agreed it was a temporary wall, and at the end of the festival, we would come back and paint over it. I understand everyone's perspective, but at the end of the day, it was good for the festival. I don't think it's a big deal."

Burdge said he would pay for all costs to repaint the wall.

"I understand their affinity for their work, but that's a building up for sale," Burdge said. "At the end of the day, we will make sure everyone smiles."

Last year, Burdge purchased an empty lot between the Kreisle Building, which houses the Children's Discovery Museum, and the O'Connor-Proctor Building, the league's headquarters.

The Junior League owns both buildings.

When Pedone found out the mural would be painted over, he requested that the league keep it but was denied.

During the film festival, Pedone said he specifically invited artists to paint murals, an expense that cost the festival about $3,000.

Some of that cost was paid for with hotel occupancy tax funds to provide housing for the artists, which was about $250, he said.

"I don't want to give the Junior League an easy out right away because I think it is important to explore the reason behind wanting to cover it," Pedone said, stating that he thinks the league should bring the artists back to paint a new mural someplace else.

"I want them to explain themselves first because I think it is an important dialogue that needs to happen. Why are they so mad?" he said. "Don't tell me it's because we didn't have permission."

The mural has been an issue for wedding parties who've rented the O'Connor-Proctor Building. Hounshell said, and have been a point of concern over whether it will devalue the building, which is for sale.

"The league is very disappointed to have to paint over someone's artwork, but it also does not want to disappoint its brides or lose valuable income that will help further its mission of helping mentor and empower at-risk adolescent girls in our community," she said.

The artist who painted the mural said the idea that the league would consider painting over something that took three days to create is extremely upsetting.

"A mural of beautiful art will not hinder a sale," artist Roshi K said. "Just because they don't like it doesn't necessarily mean a future purchaser won't love it so much that they drop armfuls and buckets of money on their front porch."

The removal of the art is more of a knock at culture, local artist Jake Ramirez said. Ramirez is currently putting together a documentary about the league wanting to paint over the mural, titling it, "No Culture Allowed."

"I don't want to bash anybody or make it a negative documentary," he said. "I want it to be about the evolution of our culture. I truly want people to see both sides of the coin and understand what these murals are and what added culture will do for our community."

Ramirez said people still think of graffiti as simply just tagging names, "and that's not it at all," he said. "It's art. It's symbolism, and it's needed for every community. These aren't just kids with spray cans."

The mural on the Kreisle Building was painted by the artist group SprATX, a collective of street artists, muralists and creative energies from the Austin area.

Different artists painted five murals in Victoria during the festival, and their murals took several days to complete, Pedone said.

James Rubio, the artist who painted a mural on the downtown theater, said it's really sad that someone would want to cover the artwork up.

"We have all had murals covered up by other murals - sometimes you only get a wall for a certain amount of time," Rubio said. "But usually, the wall becomes another exciting work of art. To ruin the mural would be pretty sad because it's an inspiration for the youth."

Ethan Minsker, of New York City, said during the festival that he held an artist salon in which he took a lot of children and teens on tours to see the artwork.

"The kids got to talk to the artists, and it was clear it meant a lot (to them) not to just see the artists working and talking about what they do but seeing artworks that were so different," he said.

Roshi K echoed his sentiment, saying, "I am against them painting on this for the sake of the little ones. They need color. They need inspiration. Let the kids have some richness - aside from money - in their lives for once. Every painting in the world isn't a Monet."

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