Mural to remain permanent fixture
By Kyle Mooty
The mural painted on the Mendez Building on the corner of Commerce and Market streets last fall in time for the Texas Monthly Barbecue Festival was originally supposed to be on display for just three months. However, after much protest regarding its removal, the Lockhart City Council decided, by a 6-1 vote, to modify the original agreement and make it permanent.
Only Councilmember Kara McGregor voted against the mural remaining – it was scheduled to be removed Feb. 3. “I feel our beautiful historical architecture downtown is a draw,” she said. “I feel cartoons and advertising messages painted on our buildings are not serving us in the long term. I’ve had equally positive and negative feedback about the mural. It’s not universally loved.”
The Downtown Historic Commission was also against the mural remaining, noting that the original agreement was for it to be only temporary.
“The Historic Commission is not against art,” said Christine Ohlendorf of the Commission. “This mural was a marketing event that was to coincide with the barbecue festival. We were told that the building owner already had plans to paint over the building. We have a beautiful historic district, and we are charged as a Historic Commission to make sure that preservation continues. It was marketing and it was paid for by an advertiser.”
There was also debate whether the mural’s advertisement of Coca-Cola was something the city wanted to support.
“We’re here to protect the historic Integrity of our neighborhood.” Commission member Ronda Reagan said. “There’s no room for murals downtown. There’s plenty of room one block from downtown on Main Street. You can put ‘em up, just not in the Historic District.”
The Historical Preservation Commission had denied an appeal to alter the original certificate, but the City Council voted for it.
During the Public Comments section of City Council, Caroline Kiefer Bell said “People are sick over the idea of this mural being taken down. This mural is now part of the recent history and needs to be protected. It is well loved by the community and countless travelers who are turbo boosting commerce here. This iconic piece of art represents the vibrancy and soul of Lockhart. Removing it will be a mistake.”
Marcia Proctor said the council needed to “beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Proctor said the mural was paid for by Coca-Cola, and it had “gotten more bang for its buck.”
“There. might be more advertisers that want their bang for the buck on the walls of some of our historic buildings,” Proctor said. “How do you rectify that with quality. Art is in the eye of the beholder. This one is not culturally diverse.”
Richard Mendez, who owns the building, said he has talked to people from Australia, Africa, and California. “They love it,” Mendez said. “They say, ‘don’t let ‘em take it down.’ I understand we don’t want graffiti, but this says Lockhart, Barbecue Capital of Texas. This symbolizes something. I will make sure the mural stays in excellent shape. If it does fade out and peels, I’m not gonna let it look ugly.”
Mayor Lew White said he did not see the changing of the mural’s certificate as an “opening of the gates” for others.
Texas Monthly had told the city that it planned to return this fall regardless of whether or not the mural was removed.
Mayor Pro Tem Angie Gonzales-Sanchez said she believed the mural enhanced the historical district.
“That mural puts not only a smile on my face but a lot of people,” Gonzales-Sanchez said. “That mural has really marketed Lockhart. Who would have thought that we would have had over 9,000 people coming to Lockhart for that festival. I’m in favor of keeping the mural.”
Councilmember Jeffry Michelson also said he liked the mural but added that Texas Monthly had indeed applied for a 90-day permit for it.
“I love their event, but they went to the Historical Committee and told them they understood it was going to be for 90 days and after 90 days they were going to repaint it. It’s in writing. I’ve seen it. We’re past 90 days. That bothers me. The Historical Commission was told one thing and they approved it based on that. My concern is for the can of worms it’s going to open. An ordinance is an ordinance and now we’re talking about not doing what the ordinance says. What’s next?”
Councilmember John Castillo said the mural was probably the second-most photographed object in Lockhart other than the Caldwell County Courthouse.
In other business:
City Attorney Monte Akers said the new organizers of the Lockhart Farmers Market will need to get a new nonprofit status, but they will be allowed to operate in the meantime. Mayor White said the City would hold off on the request to extend their time from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in order to give the new organizers time to “work with all of the businesses” around the square.
Skyhawks Youth Sports Academy was unanimously approved by the council to provide youth sports camps this summer.
Lockhart Director of Parks and Recreation Travis Hughes noted Skyhawk Sports is the largest recreational camp provider in the country. The camp will be one-week long and will include golf, basketball, soccer, flag football, and a multi-sport camp consisting of baseball, basketball and soccer, and another multi-sport camp consisting of dodgeball and ultimate frisbee.
The camp will be held primarily in the mornings at City Park. They are for ages 5-12. The instructor/camper ratio is 10-1.
Household Hazardous Waste pickup will be Saturday, April 1, rain or shine for Lockhart residents at City Park.