ATX Urban Art is shining a light on the artists behind the city’s most iconic art.
For the first time, stories and photos of urban art in Austin are being recorded for everyone to appreciate. It’s the culmination of years of hard work, hundreds of collaborators and 600 pages.
We talked to the book’s creator, J Muzacz, and shared the process of this super collaboration in Issue 23.
An Ambitious Project
I wanted to do something–something big–and do it right.
I feel like I am uniquely positioned to pull these things together. I grew up doing graffiti and transitioned to murals and now I’m on the panel of Art in Public Places for the city. So I felt like I was the person to put it together. I wanted to tell this story.
The idea of a book came up organically. I had written books in the past and at the time I was working with two interns, Zoe Axelrod and Justin Ebel, who have experience in print media and branding.
With research I realized there’s no book for murals in Austin. Usually people separate graffiti, murals and street art. I thought the dynamism for bringing all of these together made sense for Austin.
Collaboration is Key
It’s a huge collaboration that’s only possible because so many artists have contributed images and stories.
I wanted to showcase the artists and histories of urban art in Austin. It quickly ballooned to featuring over 100 artists. We ended up with this amazing compilation of artist photos spanning 50 years and discovered that some of the the earliest murals from the ’50s are still up in Austin.
We wanted to get a full take. Unfortunately we can’t fit it all in–it’s already going to be 600 pages–but it was very ambitious. Zoe, Justin and I have been working on it full-time for over a year.
The book Subway Art was one of our first inspirations. When it was published in the ’80s in NY, it was stolen more than it was bought. At the time, the city hated graffiti but the book got into the international market in the ’90s and now it’s a cult classic. That was our design influence to showcase the art really well.
Leaving a Legacy
We wanted to do something like that for our city. You jump in and it’s sink or swim, and you figure out why you’re swimming.
“We’re telling stories that haven’t been told or are forgotten.”
If we forget our history, we’re destined to repeat it. A book can solidify that this is important, this is why the city looks the way it does. Without these guys doing this in the ’70s and ’80s, we wouldn’t have had Castle Hill.
These things don’t happen in bubbles, they are passed on and rooted somewhere and we want to show it the best we can. Hopefully we are legitimizing people. There’s always been this NY, LA, Miami art talk but Austin is so creative. Visual arts were turned up during the pandemic. It made people realize that they need something on their walls. Their IKEA art isn’t as exciting as when they bought it.
The campaign we ran on Indiegogo was for that connectivity and to give opportunities. The more people know, the more they’ll be invested and connect. It’s a platform to be out there and establish Austin as a badass urban art city. Not only for the murals, but for the street art and the graffiti. I want people to have that thought in their head because there’s a whole culture behind that vandalism. The only way forward is communication and knowledge.
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