AUSTIN, Texas — As Austinites adjust to a bright new mural along Congress Avenue, East Austin now has one of its own.
Local artists painted a "Black Artists Matter" mural on East 11th Street on Thursday morning.
“For over nine years, Capitol View Arts has worked with urban artists, particularly in East Austin neighborhoods. In a city where the black population is overlooked, our purpose through this mural is to show continued support and acknowledgment of black artists and their contribution to Austin's legacy and character,” said Clifford Gillard, founder and president of Capitol View Arts.
Capitol View Arts and the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) chose the East 11th Street location, between Waller Street and Lydia Street, because of its history as the heart of the African American community in East Austin. Several artworks will also be painted on Kenny Dorham's Backyard, which is located on the same stretch of road.
Traffic lanes on East 11th Street will be closed between Waller Street and Lydia Street beginning Thursday morning through Sunday night. Congress Avenue from East Sixth Street to East Ninth Street will also remain closed through Sunday night.
On Tuesday, the AJC worked with the City of Austin and local artists to paint "Black Austin Matters" in large, yellow letters down the street of Congress Avenue between Sixth and Ninth Streets.
This mirrors similar moves made in cities across the country after "Black Lives Matter" was painted along a street heading toward the White House in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
However, Twitter users were quick to criticize the new artwork, some calling attention to gentrification taking place in the historically black East Austin neighborhood, as "East Austin" became a trending topic on the social media site by Tuesday evening.
"Painting 'Black Austin Matters' is contradictory, [because] of the gentrification that’s happening to the black community in East Austin," wrote one Twitter user. "It’s really a slap in the face."
However, AJC Executive Director Chas Moore confirmed later that day that the Congress Avenue location was chosen with a distinct purpose.
In a Twitter thread Tuesday, Moore revealed the following:
- The mural was a collaboration between Capitol View Arts and the AJC.
- The black artists who helped paint did not work for free. All and only the black artists were paid, while some volunteers of other races and backgrounds did pitch in.
- The effort was intended to highlight and spotlight black artists.
- It was meant only to make a statement and show people that racism exists in Austin.
- The location of Congress Avenue was chosen "in the name of putting it in the face of the majority of Austin and the power structure," and another mural will be coming to East Austin on Thursday.
- The phrase "Black Austin Matters" was chosen specifically.
"How can 'Black Lives Matter' to Austin and the majority of people that live in Austin if they don't even care about the black people in the city," Moore said. "So until black Austin matters ... the City and the people in the city can't graduate to 'Black Lives Matter.'"
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