In early 2018, the City of Amarillo created a new advisory board with a focus on public art and beautification. I applied immediately for a position. I’ve been a mural seeker for years, researching public art and graffiti any time I traveled to a new place. I’ve dragged my family to an abandoned sawmill on Washington’s Bainbridge Island and was probably more enthralled by the Keith Haring mural in Pisa, Italy, than by the leaning tower a few blocks away.
So when I saw that my hometown was looking for residents to help promote public art in Amarillo, I jumped at the chance. I ended up the Chair of this board, a position I served in for the next three years. We were able to fund our first mural—the bright yellow, graffiti-style “Amarillo” wall at the Rick Husband International Airport, by local artist Joey Martinez—then several more after that after launching a mural grant program.
Our goal wasn’t to act as the gatekeeper for Amarillo murals, but to showcase the positive impact of public art within a city like ours. Murals are more than pretty images. Studies have shown them to be legitimate tools for economic development. They draw traffic and drive tourism. They boost quality of life. They increase the visibility of the arts and help sustain the local culture. They turn boring, beige buildings into vibrant images and colors.
They can breathe new life into a neighborhood—or a sleepy downtown. Murals can play as big a role in revitalization as new restaurants and hotels can.
So when I learned that the 2019 Hoodoo Mural program was being organized by a local group of residents—completely unaffiliated with our board—I was beyond thrilled. The Hoodoo organization was able to take our passion even further, bringing in well-known outside artists as well as highlighting talented locals like Malcolm Byers and the Blank Spaces crew (which, by the way, is almost entirely high school art students).
This. THIS is what we had been hoping for.
That original festival brought some amazing works of art to downtown. The pandemic canceled the 2020 event, but the 2021 Hoodoo Mural Festival is back and even better than the first event. More than 100 artists from around the world applied to participate in it, and as a result, Amarillo is now benefiting from the work of world-class artists who have a major following.
Though brand-new when Hoodoo announced its 2021 lineup, Brick & Elm got involved as quickly as we could. That’s why we are sponsoring the Brick & Elm Food Park—a collection of some of our favorite food trucks—at the festival event on Saturday, October 2, on Polk. Grab your tickets now and come check out the completed murals and listen to the musical acts. We’ll be there!
In the meantime, we wanted to introduce you to the artists and Hoodoo locations. These painters will be working all week leading up to October 2, so feel free to check out their work in progress. Take pictures. Post about it on social media. Tell your friends. Celebrate with us the explosion of public art in Amarillo.
Mural location: 516 S. Polk Street
(across from the ANB parking garage)
Merritt is probably the biggest name among this year’s participants. He’s a native of Clovis, New Mexico, but is no stranger to the streets of Amarillo. He doesn’t have much formal artistic training but his talent is extraordinary. Known all over the world for his oil paintings and Renaissance-inspired murals, Merritt’s large-scale portraitures are mostly made with spray paint. And they are stunning. See more at drewmerritt.com.
Mural location: 102 SE 9th
(facing Burrito Stop)
One of Amarillo’s most successful recent exports, Fletcher graduated from Amarillo High in 2004, where she discovered her love for painting. She ended up in Oregon, where she began creating murals and using the human body as a canvas, building a reputation as a body painter. She competed in and won season one of the TV series “Skin Wars” in 2014 and just completed a cross-country body art project called “100 Bodies Across America.” See more at artbynataliefletcher.com.
Mural location: 810 S. Polk Street
(north of Palace Coffee)
DAAS is a contemporary artist based in Austin, Texas, known for his bright, bold, abstract imagery. He gained an appreciation for Japanese art while living in Osaka, Japan, and working for Universal Studios. He returned to the US in 2016 and began focusing his talents on large-scale public art commissions. He’s painted murals all over the world, from California to Connecticut to China. See his work at artist-daas.com.
Mural location: 700 S. Taylor
A Cuban-American street artist based in Miami, Roque grew up in the inner city and cites as his influences old masters like Caravaggio and abstract legends like Mark Rothko. Only 30 years old, he quickly built a worldwide reputation and has worked with brands including Samsung and Microsoft, with his murals appearing as far away as Dubai and South Korea. Take a look at his portfolio at ivanroque.com.
Mural location: 614 S. Polk
(between The Barfield and Polk Street Eats)
One of THE biggest recent stories in the Amarillo art scene, Blank Spaces has done more than anyone else in this city—maybe apart from Hoodoo itself—to bring public art to local residents. Led by high school art teacher Shawn Kennedy and project manager Shanda O’Neill, Blank Spaces otherwise consists entirely of high school students. Most of them are from Caprock. They are involved at every level of production, from budgeting and design to actually putting paint on walls. Over the past three years, Blank Spaces has been responsible for more than 20 public and private murals in Amarillo. Learn more about Blank Spaces.