Local Artists Save Texas Border School’s US Flag Tribute

CBS4 Screenshot
CBS4 Screenshot

While the nation bickers over the Confederate flag, two local artists saved the day for the American flag at one Texas border school. They seek to paint a 313.5-foot-wide-by-26-foot-tall tribute to Old Glory that comes after months of infighting that nearly tore a community apart.

The El Paso Times reports that the Canutillo Independent School District (ISD) board of trustees unanimously approved two local artists’ rendering of the US flag for the $24.1 million Congressman Silvestre & Carolina Reyes Elementary School. This new campus is scheduled to open in August, when it will serve approximately 500 area students.

The muralists, Martin Zubia and Ulices Gonzalez, generously offered to paint the previously stymied stars-and-stripes project for a mere $5,00o, according to KTSM-9. The monolithic emblem depicts 50 white stars and seven red and white stripes.

Gonzalez told the local TV news outlet: “We’re seeing it with artistic eyes, and we know that a mural that simple, doesn’t really need $32,000.”

That was the amount of cash Canutillo ISD officials thought they had to raise to cover the costs of the undertaking.

“The Hunt Corporation kind of led us astray and then kind of kicked us out to the side. We had no where to turn. we did not want to use taxpayer money,” Laure Searls, Canutillo ISD board president told KTSM-9.

The patriotic mega-mural became a focal point of controversy earlier this year. Breitbart Texas reported that the district started to paint the red, white, and blue flag to honor the school’s namesake, eight0time US congressman and Vietnam veteran Reyes before Cimarron subdivision’s developer Hunt Communities rejected the red, white and blue and halted the project.

They claimed it violated their 2011 homeowner’s association eco-palatable color scheme intended to compliment and blend with the natural landscape hues of El Paso. Hunt’s solution created an uproar. They painted over Old Glory with the supposedly more landscape friendly shade of flaming burnt orange.

None of this sat well with Reyes. He told KVIA-7: “What have we come to when we don’t think that the red, white and blue stands for everything we want our kids to learn in the school.”

Breitbart Texas reported on the public pressure and a strong veteran community that won out over the Cimarron Home Owner Association’s covenant of allowable desert tones. Hunt Communities backed down and green-lighted the mural. However, the district was left empty handed on painting dollars. There was no provision for it in the paperwork.

Reyes appealed to the community to donate to the mural. He said it was about more than just a painting. “It is a combination of all the sacrifices, not just that we made, but the sacrifices that are being made today by men and women in our military,” he told KVIA-7.

The former congressman believed in the message of the mural and pledged to raise 10 percent of the total amount plus personally. He donated $1,000. The district received $14,230 in donations toward the $32,000 through a Go Fund Me campaign, Operation Paint It Back. With expenses deducted, Canutillo ISD spokesman Shane Griffth noted online that the district netted $13,877.45.

Then the two local artists stepped in. Sherwin-Williams also sold the paint to the district at cost. The El Paso Sports Commission offered to cover insurance valued at about $1,900 for Zubia and Gonzalez, according to KTSM-9.

On the Operation Paint It Back page, Griffith says that the district will use the remaining $8,000 from the fundraiser to maintain the mural in the future. He also thanked the community “who helped make this mission a success and to honor our country and service men and women.”

Zubia and Gonzalez have worked together on murals throughout the Sun City communities and say this is just another opportunity for them to promote public art and help out. The work is expected to start on the week of July 20 so that it is completed for an August 13th grand opening.

“There is not a lot of public art. They don’t really support it that much. So we came out with the mission of trying to boost the art scene a little bit, at no cost. We do all these murals because we have a passion for it,” Gonzalez told KTSM-9.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.