Story by Alex Andrews; Photos by Corrie Coleman
You’ve seen them in the corner of your rearview mirror as you drive down a one-way street. The bright colors and powerful messages catch your eye. Waco’s mural scene is gaining momentum and with it, the art culture within the community.
Hop into the car and take a drive around downtown Waco. You’ll likely notice the vibrant chickens proclaiming “You look nice today, Wacotown,” or the vivid and meaningful Martin Luther King Jr. mural by the suspension bridge. The community mural by the East Waco Library is a commanding piece that showcases the individual talents of the people of Waco.
Waco mural art conveys all types of messages, from cheerful to powerful to abstract. The wall art grabs attention and pulls the viewer’s head, heart and soul in a new direction.
The people of Waco feel a richer culture, a sense of pride and a connection when mentioning the murals. Local artists, Baylor students and even visiting artists contribute to the artistic commentary of Waco’s mural scene.
“Art is more than a series of images that are disembodied,” said Trevor Paglen, American author, geographer, and artist. “Art is objects that live in real places, economies, spaces, architecture.”
There are countless murals tucked away behind the old buildings of Waco. These murals inspire and encourage imagination and skill. They express important ideas and feelings. This is not a new trend, however.
“The art scene in Waco has been around… but it speaks a lot about downtown development,” said Meg Gilbert, operations manager of the Art Center of Waco.
Within the last five years or so, downtown Waco subtly began to look more colorful. The creativity of its residents began to publicly emerge on the bricks and walls that make up the city. The bare bones of the old buildings were suddenly given new life when splashes of color brought their structures to attention.
“It brings people together, provides an enrichment in lifestyle, and gives a sense of self-expression and pride,” Gilbert said.
Waco’s eclectic mix of college students and permanent residents can all come together over a public work of art.
“People want to find something they can relate to… Public work can reach everybody without any exclusions,” said native Waco artist Mick Burson.
Burson is the artist behind the Austin Avenue mural and several other more geometric pieces, such as the Brookview Hills and St. Francis Church murals. He believes community art holds a special power.
“Painters create the culture of that community,” Burson said.
Wacoans agree that art makes an impact in their community and the murals are a public display of a thriving culture.
“Visual arts are an attraction; they add interest and bring attention not just to the art but to the building, the architecture, and the message,” said local 18-year-old Mark Arnold.
There is a mutually beneficial relationship in public art. The murals attract attention to businesses and the artists who create them. While small, local businesses receive new patrons, artists get recognition for their work in an unconventional way.
The art around Waco suggests that anyone in a community can create something beautiful. There are so many blank canvases around the city that could be filled with some local imagination and creativity.
“People like to invest in beautiful things,” said Gilbert.
Waco is an investment. Its people, color and culture are the currency. There is something to be said about a community willing to take history and make it beautiful again. New businesses are reshaping the traditions of the city and bringing art to its walls.
“Students changed in an environment where they could create,” said Gilbert. “It encourages personal growth and community growth.”
Whether the public art is playful or political, it has a power in its message. Waco is revealing its true colors through the murals.
Starry Night mural – 253 N 11th St.
Martin Luther King Jr. mural – Old train trestle, Lake Brazos, Martin Luther King Jr. Park
Wacotown mural – 404 Franklin Ave.
Waco mural – Dichotomy, 508 Austin Ave.
You look nice today Wacotown mural – 620 Washington Ave.
Austin Street mural – 810 Austin Ave.
East Waco mural – East Waco Library, 901 Elm Ave
Twisted Root mural – 801 S 2nd St.