A Community Conversation Through Art
Words By Jessica Devenyns Photo Courtesy of Austin Public Library
Due to the continuous creation of new works of wall art, cataloguing the public artscapes that pop up in the nooks and crannies of the eastside’s individual neighborhoods could take a lifetime. Listing a few of the most prominent murals, however, is an achievable goal. This handful-sized selection is only a sampling of the work that is proudly displayed across bricks, stones, and slats in our community.
1. La Lotería
In the summer of 1989, a group of young local artists undertook a city-sponsored art project where they covered an East Austin wall with imagery of the Mexican bingo-like game of lotería. Several years ago, South by Southwest unthinkingly sponsored an artist to paint a temporary exhibition over the long-standing mural. Robbed of their familiar landmark, the neighborhood residents pressured the music festival to apologize for its misstep and amend the damage. SXSW donated $12,000 toward the mural’s restoration which was completed by a group of artists including four who worked on the original mural in the 1980s. 1619 E Cesar Chavez St.
2. Las Cruxes
Juneteenth The corner of 12th and Chicon received its artistic christening by Chris Rogers in 2014 when he painted a mural showcasing artists such as James Brown, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. For three years, this colorful piece captured the imagination of those who strolled by until it was whitewashed in May 2017. After a negative reaction and a collaboration between Six Square and Las Cruxes who rents the space, Rogers, the original artist, re-painted the space with a Justice Thurgood quote in white over a black wall. Corner of 12th and Chicon
3. Cesar Chavez Mural
On the side wall of a used car lot, Cesar Chavez proudly displays his basket of produce while his unforgettable “Si Se Puede!” slogan is prominently overlaid across a bucolic background. At the heart of one of the oldest majority-Latino communities in Austin, this iconic mural derives its power from context. Powerful as well as colorful, to those who cross his path, Cesar Chavez’s cry to the United Farm Workers is just as resonant today as it was half a century ago. 1200 E Cesar Chavez St.
4. Voyage to Soulsville
In 1986, John Fisher transformed the south wall of the George Washington Carver Branch library into Soulsville. This vibrant mural “expresses a voyage through the discovery of black identity—depicting a community upon a vessel that embraces the African diaspora from pre-Columbian to present times,” according to the library. A landmark for some, a reminder of our past to others, this mural is nevertheless a stalwart in the east Austin street art scene. 1161 Angelina St.
5. Hillside Miracle
Raul Valdez applied his first brushstrokes onto the theater at the A.B. Cantu Pan-American Recreation Center in 1978. Three thousand square feet later, the bold backdrop was completed with references to both Mexican American contemporary culture and ancient history. Thirty-five years later, the faded and vandalized mural was restored by Valdez himself and today remains a spirited depiction of the cultural history in the neighborhood. 2100 E 3rd St.
6. You’re My Butter Half
Though not fraught with historical significance or tumultuous tales of surviving a changing landscape, “You’re My Butter Half” mural is noteworthy for its role in bringing attention to the public works of art that are scattered east of I-35. This brightly colored creation is located on the wall of the United Way of Greater Austin building and draws a continuous stream of friends, couples, and families to click camera shutters and immortalize the moment. Doing so brings awareness and interaction with the works of art throughout the rest of the city. 2000 E Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.