Painting on South Reno Signal Box Vandalized
A controversial painting on a utility box was vandalized, then painted over.
Breanna Brown is a 23-year-old artist from Damonte Ranch. As part of the city of Reno's Art Signals program, she painted a signal box on the corner of Steamboat Pkwy. and Veterans Pkwy. After working on the painting for about a month, it took less than two weeks before someone vandalized it.
"I was really kind of devastated," Brown said. "I didn't really anticipate it at all, not from this part of town."
Somebody added graffiti to the painting, so the city removed the unwanted paint. The vandalism happened late last week, and now the box is completely painted white.
"What they did do was to paint over some graffiti," Councilwoman Naomi Duerr, City of Reno said. "The signal boxes belong to the city and when we have graffiti on anything, we want to hit that within 24-48 hours."
Duerr does not know who painted over the mural, which Brown says is designed after the kids who live in the neighborhood.
"It was a picture of youth and little tokens to the area, specific area tokens like a horseshoe and some mountains," Brown said.
Despite the intent of the painting, it got a lot of criticism online. People posted on the Nextdoor app, saying the mural was "ugly" and "creepy". Others stood up for the art and the artist. One of the posts had more than 150 comments, including some who questioned why the community did not have any input on the artwork.
"It was a big deal to me but to everyone else, it was just a utility box," Brown said. "So it's kind of hard to really wrap my head around why somebody would kind of tear it to pieces and why it would be so detrimental to the area."
"It was beautiful," John Linden, Double Diamond resident said. "For those people that hadn't seen it, they missed out on a beautiful piece of art, and to vandalize it and destroy it, it's sad."
Brown is working with the city to decide if she will paint the same mural or design something new. That could include community input. Duerr says this incident could serve as a lesson in the future.
"Those that manage the program know that when they're bringing something new into the neighborhoods, no matter what it is, that they really need to do greater outreach," Duerr said.
The program is more than a decade old. The city pays each artist $500 to paint a signal box, which includes supplies. The public art committee screens the designs and gives the approval. Artists are painting 20 utility boxes, this summer. Duerr says they have painted about 40 of them, overall.
Kimberly Biancone is Brown's cousin. She says her mural inspired her to start doing her own art projects, and says the vandalism of Brown's painting is heartbreaking.
"A lot of times, people feel like they can just get away with it because it's art but it's so much more than that," Biancone said. "It's a gift and it's time and dedication."
Despite the negativity and the destruction of her painting, Brown says she is both frustrated and happy.
"I'm happy that a conversation has started about it because I think at the end of the day, that's what art is about," Brown said.