Story and photographs by Claire Schaper
A low concrete wall, no more than three feet high, intended to protect pedestrians, is what artist Veronica Ceci had to work with. Lamar traffic zoomed by as Ceci, and her team of volunteers, painted and worked to complete her “Meander,” mural this past October. Complete they did, and while not necessarily the most obvious of spots, the site-specific work beautifully and cleverly highlights the identity of LGBTQ identifying Texans. This project, one of 12 works around the city, is part of the City of Austin’s TEMPO 2D Program.
Susan Lambe, the city’s Art In Public Places (AIPP) programs manager explains, “TEMPO 2D is a pilot program that expands the successful TEMPO program into murals. It gives local artists a relatively simple point of entry into the AIPP program, allowing them to experiment with the notion of working in public space without the 20 year design constraint required for permanently commissioned artwork. The goal is to spark curiosity and conversation through artwork interventions in unexpected places.”
Beginning this past June, Ceci had around 50 community members come to three different free workshops in order to create etched tiles featuring the faces of queer Texans, like Barbara Jordan and Lisa Davis. After laying a brightly colored and rainbow-esque background onto the wall, Ceci and her team pressed these faces onto contrasting, but equally brightly colored, Greek key designs.
Ceci explains, “I really like they idea of inviting people who don’t consider themselves artists to make a small part of something bigger. It is a less intimidating way to make art because their piece doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, it becomes part of the masterpiece.”
Within the mural one sees many repeating Greek key designs, also known as meanders. The definition of Meander is “to follow a winding course,” and can also be known as a decorative border constructed from a continuous line. Ceci wanted to integrate both definitions. “It has to do with a wandering path,” she says, “how do we find ourselves, where do we find ourselves. A to B is rarely a straight path.”
Ceci’s mission throughout the process of creating the mural was to generate a sense of unity among people and to that end she put out a call for help with the project via Craigslist. Aime Polivka, an Environment Texas canvasser and greeting card designer, responded to the ad and the two worked side-by-side throughout the mural installation.
While some will process the mural quickly, as a colorful blur, as they drive past 30th street on Lamar, others will take in the designs in a more intimate fashion as they walk or run by. Ceci is thrilled with either as her self-described aim is to, “Show that LGBTQ people are a part of our everyday lives. It’s not an us or them thing, we are all contributing and working alongside one another in different ways.”