EDINBURG — The Hidalgo County Commissioners Court heard an uncommon request Tuesday. Rather than being asked for money, somebody wanted to give them something of value.
McAllen-based attorney Gerardo Arriaga would like to donate a mural to Hidalgo County, which he proposed be installed on a wall on the first floor of the Courthouse Annex III building, which houses the district attorney’s and county judge’s offices.
“Some friends and I wanted to bring some public art to our county because we don’t have anything,” Arriaga told the commissioners. “You go to places like San Antonio, places like Houston, Dallas — and yes, they’re big cities and they have money — but if you go to Reynosa, they have a lot more public art than we do, and I can guarantee you that their budget is a fraction of what we have.”
Arriaga asked commissioners for permission to have two muralists from Zacatecas, Mexico prepare proposals for the mural, which he said could depict the county’s history or focus on themes of law and justice.
The three commissioners in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting — David Fuentes, Precinct 1; Eduardo “Eddie” Cantu, Precinct 2; and Joseph Palacios, Precinct 4 — said nothing after Arriaga addressed them, with County Executive Officer Valde Guerra only telling him someone from his office would reach out to discuss the proposal.
Arriaga told The Monitor he is hopeful the county will take him up on the offer.
“The good thing is that we don’t have to do any demolition or modify the structure of the building,” he said. “We could hang it on an existing wall without damaging the wall and this would be at no cost to the county.”
In his effort to bring more public art to the county, he has donated two murals to the city of Pharr painted by Zacatecas’ natives Imuris and Jose Arturo Ramos Pinedo.
The first was installed inside the Pharr Memorial Library in 2017 and the second inside the South Pharr Development & Research Center in October. A third mural is in the works for a city building located at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, Arriaga said, also to be painted by the Ramos Pinedo brothers.
“Those guys were easy (to work with),” Arriaga said of Pharr city leaders, who were enthusiastic about the idea of receiving public art at no cost to the city. “It was like, ‘We want three free murals; come on in!’”
He is also in talks with the city of Edinburg to install a mural at the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library once it is fully repaired and is working with the McAllen International Airport to possibly install a sculpture there. He has toyed with the idea of trying to have a mural installed at the McAllen Central Station to help welcome visitors to the city and dreams of putting up murals across the county.
The murals cost him a couple thousand dollars, he said, and he tries to work with up-and-coming Mexican artists since they are more affordable.
“I just like it,” Arriaga said when asked why he is drawn to public art. “It’s nice and it beautifies the places where you live.”
His hope is that more private citizens will raise funds to help local cities install murals and sculptures.
“Donations wouldn’t take funds from important items that the county needs,” Arriaga said. “It doesn’t cost a lot of money and we citizens can come together and put some money down, and it’s something that is going to make our county prettier.”