Cultural district takes over plans for mural at 12th and Chicon

June 12, 2017
Nick Wagner
In preparation for another mural, Daniel McKeey paints a wall on the side of Las Cruxes at the intersection of Chicon and East 12th streets. NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Six Square, Austin’s black cultural district, announced Monday that it has gained conservatorship of a wall that once featured a mural depicting African American music legends such as James Brown, Prince and Tupac Shakur.

The district reached an agreement with the building owner and business owner leasing the property at 12th and Chicon streets, where the mural was painted over last month, causing outrage in East Austin.

The nonprofit cultural district, which has been collecting community input at meetings, will be responsible for what will go on the wall next.

For now, a quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall is expected to be painted on the wall before the Juneteenth parade this weekend: “At a time in our history when the streets of the nation’s cities inspire fear and despair, rather than pride and hope, it is difficult to maintain objectivity and concern for our fellow citizens. … In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”

PHOTOS: Mural painted over on East 12th and Chicon

“People were incensed because it’s another example of cultural erasure that has taken place in Central East Austin,” said Nefertitti Jackmon, Six Square’s executive director. “If you don’t care about having the presence of African-American culture and appreciating that, then I think we have some problems. One of our goals is to put something up in the meantime to inspire hope in the community.”

The district is still gathering community feedback and will work with the original artist, Chris Rogers, on what the finished mural will look like. Although Rogers thinks the new mural will have the same spirit as the previous one, he’s waiting for all the community input before creating a design and does not have a timeline for when the project will be completed.

“When it was initially painted over, I was upset, to say the least,” he said. But now, Rogers said, it’s a great opportunity to galvanize the community.

Members of the East 12th Street Merchants Association have said the 3-year-old mural was falling apart and needed to be repaired. Veronica Ortuño, owner of the new clothing store and art gallery Las Cruxes, who had the mural removed, later agreed to commission the original artist to paint another mural on the wall. Ortuño did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

In a statement last month, Ortuño said: “Las Cruxes is an independently owned and operated small business with long-standing ties to the East Austin community. As a 14-year resident, I consider Austin my home. We are taking into consideration and listening to all concerned parties. As persons of color ourselves, we do not take this issue lightly.”

After the mural was painted over in mid-May, graffiti was later sprayed on the all-white wall, including “(Expletive) gentrification” and “Black Culture Matters.”

East Austin resident Talvin Christion, 42, said there’s now a lot of pressure on the artist and district to make it right. “The people here take it to heart,” he said.