Tampa’s new ‘Back the Blue’ mural was created before the permit was even approved

There was an application for a permit to paint the mural, but that application had not completed the approval process.

click to enlarge A portion of downtown Tampa's new "Back the Blue" mural. - Ray Roa
Ray Roa
A portion of downtown Tampa's new "Back the Blue" mural.

Downtown Tampa has a new “Back The Blue” mural (or “Bock the Blub,” whatever you wanna call it), but the work was finished before the permit was even processed with the City of Tampa.

A previous Creative Loafing article cited a "Back The Blue" muralist who posted that the permits had been obtained, but that wasn't entirely true. According to city spokesperson Ashley Bauman, there was an application for a permit to paint the mural, but that application had not completed the approval process.

That’s all Bauman would tell CL, but the timing is unfortunate since images of the post might have started to go viral.

The work—situated on Madison Street outside the downtown Tampa police headquarters—was almost immediately mocked by street art giant Tristan Eaton, who told his 218,000-plus followers, “Tampa this looks like shit. Leave the art making to the non racists ok? Color harmony and critical thinking aren’t your thing.”  Eaton painted the piece across from Bern’s in South Tampa.

Even comedian Patton Oswalt shared the work with his 4.6 million Twitter followers, adding, "Are you kidding? That looks great. I will always Blrbk the Blub."

Creative Loafing Tampa Bay has asked the City of Tampa's transportation department for a copy of the mural permit application and an interview with the city mobility department director Vik Bhide to talk about how the mural interacts with traffic control markings on Madison Street (several people have pointed out how the mural covers parts of double yellow lines and other mural no-nos).

In comments to the Tampa Bay Times, Back the Blue mural organizer Kristen Krutz said she and about 40 volunteers decided to move forward without a permit, block the road with their own orange cones and paint "because Black Lives Matter has murals all over the city that say Black Lives Matter, and they were not permitted."

But if Krutz is referring to city-sanctioned public art that rolled out at the end of June, then she's wrong—the City of Tampa literally put out press releases about that work.

In a Monday afternoon statement sent to CL, Castor said, “Any tribute to honor their service is welcome. It’s unfortunate they didn’t see the permitting process through so that our community could participate in showing their appreciation for the brave men and women that service our residents every day.”

But as protesters have pointed out, if they set up cones or prevented traffic from going through an open roadway without a permit, then they'd probably met with arrest or force (hold on, did that happen already?).

CL asked the mayor's office about that concern, and we also asked about what happens to the mural now, especially since many have pointed out that it probably violates mural requirements in the way that it covers traffic markings. We'll update this post if Castor's office returns our email

UPDATED: 08/03/20 5 p.m. Updated to include comments from Patton Oswalt's Twiter and an organizer from the Bock the Blub mural crew, plus a late afternoon statement from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

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