A signal box at Steamboat and Veterans Parkway has been vandalized twice in the past week. Breanna Brown’s painting on the box was part of the city’s Art Signals program, which commissions local artists to paint the boxes around town.
But Brown’s piece drew negative comments on the Nextdoor app by area residents. It was soon painted over in white and then tagged over after that.
“Apparently people hated my box that much,” Brown wrote on Facebook. “I spent a month working on it and went over budget so that it would last a long time.
“The online community has been overwhelmingly supportive, and I can’t help but think that this issue and our feelings about it would have been largely discarded if this hadn’t been talked about throughout the online forums as it has.”
Here’s what one Nextdoor commenter wrote:
“The exorcist looking thing is not right
City of Reno officials said that they are shocked by what they are calling two acts of vandalism. City arts and events Manager Alexis Hill said that the city is looking into what happened.
“Our office is devastated,” she said. “It’s very distressing.”
The city pays artists $500 for each box, and they paint about 20 a year.
City Councilmember Naomi Duerr said more outreach by city staff is needed when signal boxes get painted.
“It’s human nature to want to know what’s going on your neighborhood and to have a say,” she said in response to questions about the vandalisim. “I think it’s a wake-up call to the city that the public needs to be involved. I’m not saying it’s okay or who did it or why they did it.
“You can’t go vandalizing city property. It’s not a good situation. Obviously, a lot of miscommunication somewhere along the line.”
Many online commenters were outraged by the vandalism. After somebody painted over Brown’s artwork with white paint, the box was tagged with messages saying that since the box is now white, it is safe, “white” art.
Some interpreted the message as racist while others said it was a sarcastic statement about the negative comments expressed on Nextdoor.
Duerr said that because the box had graffiti on it, it was quickly painted over again, this time by the city’s graffiti abatement crew. She added the artist may be able to paint there again or at another location.
“We are going step up our outreach and bring designs to the neighborhood advisory board,” she explained.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.