MONIQUE BATSON — Southeast Texans mourn loss of local muralist

Published 12:04 am Friday, August 19, 2022

I only met Kimberly Brown once, but her essence has been around me for years.

As a resident of Port Neches, I pass by it every day when I drive down Port Neches Avenue and see the side of The Cheery Tree Florist, The Crow’s Nest and other works of art that adorn the street.

As someone with fond memories of what was once The Pig Stand in Beaumont, I love seeing the realistic mural of the former Southeast Texas staple on Calder Avenue.

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Her signature phrase, “Be Kind,” can be found on stickers, walls and T-shirts across Southeast Texas. And, of course, there’s the giant mural of Janis Joplin in the Ben J. Rogers Regional Visitors Center, which she was painting the day we met.

“I was born in Port Arthur at St. Mary’s, the same hospital she was born,” Brown said while adding strokes of color to the wall. “I’ve always been a fan of her music, her style and her non-conformity.”

She spoke comfortably as she painted, staying true to her phrase, and seemed almost as if she was unaware of how talented she truly was. Talking with her was like talking with a longtime friend. And, truth be known, even though I was there to interview and photograph the mural in progress, I probably stayed longer than I should have purely to enjoy the conversation coupled with the occasional tracks from the jukebox she worked next to.

Originally she had been hired to paint the Joplin mural at Lowe’s in Port Arthur as part of a nationwide contest, but due to copyright concerns it was removed.

“The lady that hired me here said she had seen (an) article…about it and she just loved Janis and she wishes she could have it here,” Brown said while painting at the Visitors Center in September. “And I was like, strange turn of events, that one no longer exists, so you can have that Janis.”

Brown told me she entered the art world while attending high school in Beaumont, but didn’t get truly involved until college. Her first mural in Southeast Texas was done on Port Neches Avenue. And after she posted a picture to social media, she said, the job offers began to flow.

She would use Photoshop to create her work and project them onto a wall before painting.

“I’m not very good at drawing,” she said, “but I can paint.”

And paint, she most definitely could. Her talent can be viewed at 660 Fannin Street in Beaumont, where she painted a mural of Frida Kahlo, of which she reportedly called her favorite. There are also paintings at Pour Brother’s Brewery and Cattail Marsh. And she’s been an active part of The Art Studio, Inc. since her teenage years.

Brown, a mother of two, died Tuesday at the age of 48.

There will be a gathering Sunday at 1 p.m. at The Art Studio, 720 Franklin Street in Beaumont, to celebrate her life.

But you can do so at anytime nearly anywhere in Southeast Texas just by admiring her incredible work.

And above all, be kind.

 

Monique Batson is Port Arthur Newsmedia editor. She can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.