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The Many Murals of Waco

For years, Waco has been growing its reputation as a hub of arts and culture, and nowhere is this more apparent than on its public walls

Everywhere you turn in the City of Waco, Texas, a mural of inordinate quality is likely to greet you, offering insights into the town’s history or just being darn cute. Here are six eye-catching murals and 25 related others that make for a fun and funky treasure hunt.

You Look Nice Today Wacotown

Tailor-made for Instagram, this mural on the back of the building at 115 N. 7th St. features three too-cool little birdies preening around an affirmation we can all get behind — er, in front of. This 2014 pop art piece by Binty Bint is a ground-level, accessible destination for social media peacocks. The hashtag #nicelookwaco has inspired more than 1,000 IG posts, making it a spiritual cousin to Austin’s “I Love You So Much.”

Other colorful catchphrase murals:

  • “Dear Waco We Love You,” a twee pop of pink at BoHo Buffalo, 926 La Salle Ave.
  • “Waco Y’all,” a striking splash of desert imagery created by Gabby Storey in 2022, at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 215 S. University Parks Dr., Suite 107

Bold Waco

“Bold Waco” does what it says on the tin. Since 2017, the roughly 15-foot-high work by artist Nick Frigo has projected chrome confidence from the side of Barnett’s Whiskey House. Its clean lines and gun-metal shading, set against the building’s rustic brown bricks, beautify the corner of Franklin Avenue and Fifth Street like a cool tattoo. It’s a must-see stamp of civic pride.

Other love letters to the city:

  • “Cheers from Waco,” a collage by Kalyn Dunks at Bicycle World, 112 Mary Ave., Suite 1
  • “City with a Soul,” a skyline of icons by Shelby Nickel and revised by Kalyn Dunks at The Findery, 910 Webster Ave.
  • “Dichotomy Mural,” a mesmerizing patterned work by Mike Trozzo at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits, 508 Austin Ave.

Giving Praise: Black Pride

This vibrant ode to Waco’s Black community, retouched and expanded in 2023, is a can’t-miss because of its social significance and eye-popping color. Surging with life and dynamism on the side of Marilyn’s Gift Gallery, a Black-owned shop at 818 Elm Ave., the mural was one of three created by local contemporary artist Chesley Smith in 2005 as part of the “Color Us Proud” initiative led by Neighborworks with Cultural Arts of Waco. The others, “Each One Reach One Teach One” and “Peace Mural,” are also on Elm.

Other socially significant murals:

  • “Storytellers,” a local history panorama designed by David Lowenstein in 2013, at the East Waco Library, 901 Elm Ave.
  • “Martin Luther King Jr.,” a 2005 portrait by Ira Watkins at the bridge footing by the Brazos River near Washington Ave.
  • “Ambold’s Mural,” a 2019 historical retrospective by Tony Bryant, at Ambold’s Key, Lock & Alarm, 1125 Franklin Ave.
  • “Images Past—South Waco,” a vast, collaborative work led by Chesley Smith and Ira Watkins on the side of Diversified Product Development, 700 Research Ave.

1000 Hopes for Waco

This visual feast at 315 S. University Parks Drive isn’t noteworthy just because it gorgeously depicts origami cranes in flight. It also marked the 2018 debut of the ARTPrenticeship program, an effort by arts nonprofit Creative Waco that pairs professional art mentors with Waco ISD high school students in an eight-week program each year. The result has been spectacular public art.

Each mural to date brims with symbolism relevant to the community. “We had some really talented local artists and street artists who had already started to make waves,” says Stefanie Wheat-Johnson, ARTPrenticeship program director, of the effort’s beginnings. “They said we’d really like to see a way to utilize a program like this to both activate the community and to engage young people and give them a vision for what it’s like to be part of a creative community in this city.”

So far, mission accomplished. About 23 mentors and 57 apprentices have participated over the years, collaborating on works that twine concepts like science, history, unity, hope, and caregiving with sumptuous imagery. The theme of “1000 Hopes for Waco,” created by 10 students and three mentors led by artist Will Suarez, is optimism for a community rich with potential. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy for a program that flowers to this day.

Other ARTPrenticeship murals:

  • 2019: “The Color of Health,” Waco Family Medicine, MLK Jr. Community Clinic, 1911 N. M.L.K. Jr. Blvd.
  • 2019: “The Spirit of We,” Brotherwell Brewing, 400 E. Bridge St.
  • 2020: “A Message of Hope,” The Cove, 524 W. Waco Dr., Suite B
  • 2020: “Tree of Life,” TFNB East Waco, 715 Elm Ave.
  • 2021: “If you feel up to it you should introduce yourself to a stranger today,” Dr Pepper Museum, 300 S. 5th St., 2021
  • 2022: “Reaching Beyond,” 1121 Webster Ave

George’s Mural

Patrons at George’s Restaurant, 1925 Speight Ave., keep some fancy company while downing their chicken fried steaks and 18-ounce beers. The diner famous for its “Big O” beer goblet also boasts five big G’s: comedian George Lopez, country musician George Strait, boxer and grillmaster George Foreman, and presidents George Washington, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. The caricatures of all five — created by Britain Seago in 2019 — smile from the side of the restaurant, as if to gently (if not subtly) remind passersby that they’re at George’s, and hey, why not stop in?

Other local business tie-ins:

  • “Donut Sun,” a landscape with a doughnut for a sun at Shipley’s Donuts, 1924 N. Valley Mills Dr.
  • “Hecho En Waco,” an exquisitely lettered design at the Mexican restaurant of the same name, 300 S. 6th St.
  • “Cactus Rose,” a lush West Texas scene created by Allie Menchaca for the eponymous western store, 1002 Austin Ave.
  • “Stone Hearth,” an intricate mandala created by Tony Bryant for Stone Hearth Indian Cafe, 506 Austin Ave.

Victor Hugo

Waco has attracted some big names as an art town ascendant. In 2018, Parisian street artist Xavier Prou, better known as Blek Le Rat, paid a visit facilitated by a web of local arts organizers. Prou, the pioneer of a layered stencil spray-paint technique that has influenced countless street artists, including the infamous Banksy, embarked on a whirlwind of local appearances and artmaking that resulted in six new murals in Waco’s downtown Cultural District. “Victor Hugo,” located at the south entrance of Brotherwell Brewing, invokes the legendary French writer as an avatar of communal drinking and thinking.

Other Blek Le Rat murals:

  • “Violinist,” Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits, 508 Austin Ave.
  • “Selfie-Rat,” Cultivate 7Twelve, 712 Austin Ave.
  • “Young Chopin,” Waco Running Company, 700 Franklin Ave.
  • “In Honor of Kurt Kaiser,” Apex Coffee Roasters, 324 S. 6th St.
  • “Young Picasso,” Art Center of Waco, 701 S. 8th St.

Using the Public Art Map

Waco’s murals are far too numerous to cover comprehensively in a single post. Helpfully, Creative Waco has an interactive online Public Art Map with information on more than 60 murals around town — with names, photos, locations, artist info, and more. The map also covers sculptures, fountains, and assorted public art, making it an absolute must for any cultural jaunt.

But discoveries can be made off the grid, as Stefanie Wheat-Johnson of ARTPrenticeship attests. “We’re actually at a point, not only with murals but just art in general — and maybe there’s a hunger post-pandemic for this — where we’re seeing a lot of young and emerging artists really come into their own, and they’re all looking for spaces to create,” she says. “So if anyone’s visiting Baylor and visiting Waco and they haven’t been here in a while, I’d say keep your eyes peeled. Look in coffee shops, look in the new bars and restaurants, because you’re going to see the work of a lot of creative people.”

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