Red River district mural spotlights history as hotbed of Austin music


Highlights

The installation of the mural coincides with Hot Summer Nights, a four-day stretch of free music.

The campaign comes at a difficult time for the district amid higher public safety concerns and rising rents.

When artist and musician Tim Kerr was approached about creating a mural that described the Red River Cultural District’s history — to be painted on what is believed to be the district’s oldest building, the nightclub Elysium — he knew immediately that the focus needed to be on the words detailing the past.

“When I saw it, I thought, ‘Man, let’s (not) do anything to it. Let’s just leave it as is, and let’s just write the history in white paint,’ ” Kerr said. “Fill the whole wall with the history, and I’m pretty sure somebody’s going to stop and read it.”

Members of the cultural district’s merchants association as well as Soul-y Austin, the city’s business district incubator, commissioned the American-Statesman’s former longtime music critic Michael Corcoran to write the painted text about the history of the live music district.

Early Saturday, Kerr set up a power lift and got to work painting on the side of the black, corrugated metal building on Seventh and Red River streets.

“This building,” the mural begins in large type, before shrinking to continue, “was originally a mule barn used by the U.S. Army during WWI, housed various secondhand stores and then live music venues since the mid-80s when the Cave Club introduced industrial music to Texas.”

The installation of the mural coincides with Hot Summer Nights, a four-day stretch of free music that began Thursday, and marks the beginning of a series of improvement projects intended to preserve the celebrated home of the indie rock scene on the eastern edge of downtown Austin.

“We’ve got 13 live music venues and half a dozen really great businesses and cultural institutions here,” said Nicole Klepadlo, redevelopment project manager at Soul-y Austin. “So the hope is that these projects kind of help highlight the history and culture of the district and bring people that maybe have never been to Red River before to Red River as well as bring those people back that are here all the time.”

Other upcoming projects include a large neon sign bearing the district’s name, adding trash cans and planters and creating an art installation at the Cheer Up Charlies nightclub. Klepadlo said Kerr might also paint a second mural at 801 Red River that would showcase Texas musicians.

The city also has commissioned a survey of the alley between the Beerland and Sidewinder live music venues, which merchants have identified as a crime area. A possible solution could include closing the alley off to pedestrians, Klepadlo said.

The campaign comes at a difficult time for the district as rents in the area rise and public safety concerns dog merchants trying to keep their doors open. The district lies adjacent to the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, which saw a spike in drug activity earlier this year, such as K2-related illnesses.

A recent study of the district pointed to safety as its greatest threat to economic stabilization and health.

Jason McNeely, the operator of the music venue Barracuda and board member of the merchants association, said facing that common challenge and others is the reason the association came together.

“We (venue owners) want this district to realize its potential,” McNeely said. “We’re not trying to turn it into Rainey Street or turn it into something it’s not. We just want to create a safe neighborhood for people to come see music.”

That continuing story of the district will be laid out in the final lines of Kerr’s mural, which, in Corcoran’s words, reads: “History never gets old,” followed by a contribution by Kerr, that his old band, Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee, used to sing, “Time is time was NOW.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Man arrested in stabbing in Southwest Austin, police said
Man arrested in stabbing in Southwest Austin, police said

Update 4:30 p.m.: Austin police have arrested a man accused of stabbing another person during a family disturbance at an apartment complex on Monterey Oaks Boulevard in southwest Austin. The victim, who was male, was taken to the hospital and received life-threatening injuries, said Austin Senior Police Officer Jeremy Bohannon. Police were notified...
Police: Man injured after shooting in East Austin
Police: Man injured after shooting in East Austin

Austin-Travis County EMS took a man in his 30s to the hospital after a shooting in East Austin, officials said Saturday. Austin Police responded at about 2 p.m. to the 8400 block of Garcreek Circle, Lt. Brian Moon said. Moon said the incident began as a disturbance and escalated. Medics took the man to Dell Seton Medical Center with a gunshot wound...
South Austin house fire kills pets, does $100,000 structural damage
South Austin house fire kills pets, does $100,000 structural damage

A fire that sparked after 3 a.m. Saturday did $100,000 in structural damage to a South Austin home and killed a dog and a cat, though the resident got out safely, Austin Fire reported. Flames were heavy in the front of the house in the 5800 block of South First Street, near Ben White Blvd., when firefighters arrived. Red Cross is assisting the resident...
New mural at 12th and Chicon unveiled
New mural at 12th and Chicon unveiled

Ten months after Chris Rogers’ mural at 12th and Chicon streets was painted over, sparking outrage from the community over what many saw as an act of gentrification, he will be back Saturday to present his new work at the same spot. In response to the controversy last summer, Austin’s black cultural district, Six Square, reached...
Australian priest reacts to Parkland shooting with swipe at US on church marquee 
Australian priest reacts to Parkland shooting with swipe at US on church marquee 

A rector at a church in Australia sent a pointed message to the United States this week in the wake of the shooting deaths at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, The Washington Post reported. On the marquee outside the Gosford Anglican Church, the Rev. Rod Bower posted the message, “When will they love their kids more than their...
More Stories