Austin, Texas is a city full of diverse cultures, and it hosts some of the most identifiable public photo backdrops. This town captured my heart in pictures long before I actually got out and experienced all it has to offer.
Five years ago, I began my real life scavenger hunt through the streets of the Texas capital to find my own little piece of Austin history. Whether they’re covered with vibrant splashes of color or merely a few emblazoned words, I’ve tracked down a handful of the best murals in Austin. Here is a short list of my ultimate findings.
Jeremiah the Innocent
Better known as the “Hi, How Are You?” frog, Jeremiah made his world debut on the album cover of Daniel Johnston’s 1983 release, Hi, How Are You: The Unfinished Album. In 1993, Johnston was commissioned by Sound Exchange record store to create a mural featuring Jeremiah. The locally loved amphibian now shows his face on the south side of the building located at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe, across from The University of Texas at Austin. The commissioned piece, which outsiders may mistake for graffiti, exemplifies just how deeply the love of music and art runs through the heart of this city.
In 2004, Jeremiah’s existence was threatened. Austinites rallied together to keep the innocent, alien-like frog in his original space, and all was right with the world. David Roberts, the current owner of Thai Spice restaurant which now occupies the building, has witnessed the great impact Jeremiah has on their business’s success. He decided to pay licensing fees for future use of the image. Jeremiah may be just a bullfrog, but his circle of friends spans the world.
Greetings from Austin
My hunt for this landmark treasure felt like an actual scavenger hunt. It must have taken a special visit from my oldest niece because, one day, there is was – just as epic and wonderful as I’d imagined.
Located at 1720 S. First Street, on the southern exterior wall of Roadhouse Relics, this mural first adorned the neighborhood business in 1998. Artist and owner Todd Sanders and his friend Rory Skagen recreated this iconic Austin postcard on the side of the building to add light to a neighborhood that, at the time, was taking a turn for the worst.
In the fifteen years since the mural first made its appearance, it has not only been weathered by Central Texas summers, but has also felt the love from many hands of visitors, who park out front and pose in front of the colorful backdrop. In August 2013, Sanders launched a restoration project for the well-loved wall, along with help from Skagen and Creative Action Color Squad. The project has already maxed out their donation goal of $10,000, which will restore the painting to its original beauty.
One solid tip I will offer is this: if you’re capturing the moment with your phone, make sure to wait until traffic has come to a complete stop before you back up to take your shot. Be quick because your moment will be fleeting, but the memory you’ve captured will last a lifetime. Here is my memory.
You’re My Butter Half
United Way of Greater Austin turned over a new leaf during their 2012 rebranding efforts. At that time, they unveiled a brilliantly themed wall mural, which updated the exterior of their local offices to match the bright and shiny new brand.
Local designer John Rockwell of Creative Suitcase was the inspiration behind this fun-loving mural. He teamed up with the entire Creative Suitcase team, who volunteered two days of their time to complete the smart, new street art in the neighborhood.
United Way of Greater Austin has supported the community for nearly 90 years. Their mural, which has become known as a great place for Austin sweethearts to take photographs, brightens up the property at 2000 E. MLK Jr. Blvd. You’ll find the corner boasting plenty of green lawn leading to the base of the trendy photo spot. This makes it so much easier to plan, pose, mock, jump around and act foolish for the perfect photo opportunity…without the entire Austin population witnessing your antics. The vivid colors and the fact that everyone loves butter makes this up and coming backdrop a win-win in the photo album. All that’s missing is bacon.
“I love you so much”
Jo’s Hot Coffee holds a sweet corner spot in the heart of the SoCo neighborhood. It’s recognizable by its sage green exterior and the constant flow of photo-hungry visitors.
If you stop to watch, it’s like a choreographed dance – the flocks of people waiting for their chance to spin, step in, smile, and capture the shot of the infamous red graffiti message displayed on the north-facing wall. The message simply states, “I love you so much.”
This story has its highs and its lows, but is as sweet as the words themselves. In 2010, local musician Amy Cook took a can of red spray paint to write a beautiful and simply scripted love letter to her partner Liz Lambert, majority owner at Jo’s. With the already high foot traffic at the location, an immediate influx of people sought out the wall, taking photos with friends and lovers alike. The site quickly went viral.
January 2011, the public love letter was vandalized. The wall was painted its original green and, several weeks later, the couple restored the identifiable love note to its rightful spot.
I can say from experience that Jo’s offers a bold statement to all its passersby. Although the message was originally written from one partner to another, when recreated, Cook assembled a center of community where we can all gather to pronounce our love for all things great in Austin.
Go on – get out there and create your photo memory in front of the best murals in Austin. Share with me on Twitter!
In your opinion, what is the best mural in Austin?
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