Brownsville mural stirs mixed reactions in community

Local News

Mural painted by LA-based artist, Teddy Kelly. [Photo: Gaby Moreno]

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) – A mural commissioned by the City of Brownsville is stirring mixed reactions among residents who are saying the opportunity should have been presented to a local artist.

Mural painted by Teddy Kelly. [Photo: Gaby Moreno]

The side of the Capitol Theater building on Levee Street in Brownsville is now home to the city’s latest mural. Through a press release sent on Sept. 10, the city announced that they would be kicking off an initiative that would include three commissioned murals. The murals are part of the city’s efforts to “recover spaces for artistic expansion” and “promote cultural awareness.”

The first of the three murals was painted by Los Angeles-based Artist and Illustrator Teddy Kelly.

While born in the United States, Kelly grew up in Mazatlan, Mexico, and later attended San Diego City College. Kelly has worked with numerous big-name brands such as Hotwheels, Vans, and Toyota.

Kelly began his painting the 6,000 square foot mural on Sept. 13 and is adding finishing touches before calling it done.

“I would venture to say it’s going to be one of the largest murals in the Valley, if not the biggest,” Brownsville Director of Community and Government Affairs, Ramiro Gonzalez, told ValleyCentral in a September 13 interview.

Funds for the Downtown Mural Program were taken from the Musk Foundation donation as per request of the city, according to the press release.

While the street remains closed to traffic, photos of the geometric, bright pink mural have been circulating on social media inciting mixed relations by community members, some going as far as creating polls to see how residents feel about the mural.

Dragtivist, Kween Beatrix, created a poll on Twitter asking if the downtown mural “inspired civic pride,” in reference to a quote by Kelly in the press release. The overwhelming amount of the 257 users who voted “no.”

Much of the backlash is in response to the commission Kelly was paid for the mural and the stylistic choices of the mural. Many feel that the money donated to the city by the Musk Foundation should have stayed in the community and that the art should have better represented the community’s culture.

“If the Elon Musk Foundation donated these funds to the City of Brownsville, there should have been a better effort to make sure these funds were administered with community input and in a more transparent manner,” said Beatrix. “Whatever the cost was, we know that that money should have stayed within our community and could have immensely benefitted the many talented artists and culturalists within our city.”

ValleyCentral reached out to the City of Brownsville about the amounts being paid to each artist and who would be the next two artists. We are still waiting for a response and will post an update when more information becomes available.

While unable to confirm with the city, ValleyCentral reached out to Mexican Artist Sophia Castellanos and confirmed with her that she would be the next artist to paint a mural in downtown Brownsville with the help of some local volunteers.

In response to the negative comments on social media, Mayor Trey Mendez posted photos of the mural on Instagram today with a caption saying, “Not everyone will like it. But not everyone liked the Musk Mural. Or the bad bunny one. Or the Selena one. All 3 from local artist @popc_ulture. But it’s art. And @teddykelly is a real pro with a great portfolio who has now set the bar for future murals.”

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