Jeremy Biggers at Wild West Mural Fest 2021 Courtesy of Will Heron

Visual Arts

What You Need To Know About Saturday’s Wild West Mural Fest

Will Heron, an artist and the founder of the Wild West Mural Fest, talks about this year's mural painting festival in West Dallas.

Take a minute to reflect on your past, present, and future.

Who were you in the past? Does your present self reflect your past self’s aspirations and dreams? How do you envision yourself in the future?

Those questions landed in my head after an enriching conversation with Will Heron, artist and founder of this weekend’s Wild West Mural Fest and Art Walk West. Heron explained this year’s theme —FUTURE/PAST—to me earlier today as his team finished preparation for this weekend’s events, which will take over the warehouses just east of Sylvan Avenue below Singleton. You can’t miss them if you’re driving down Sylvan.

This is the seventh annual event, where 25 artists transform multiple walls and other surfaces throughout Trinity Groves’ and West Dallas’ Tin District into a public art festival to commemorate the community’s rich artistic and cultural scene. Art Walk, which will be held this Saturday, displays mural paintings from local and visiting artists inspired by the past, present, and future of West Dallas. In addition to the large cultural murals, the festival includes in-person art shows and exhibition from participating local galleries, and live entertainment provided by the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Click here for a map of this weekend’s events with beings with Saturday’s Art walk at 11 a.m. and ends on Sunday.

Head below the image for my chat with Heron, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Miguel Don Juan’s mural at Wild West Mural Fest
Courtesy of Will Heron

Last year’s themes for Wild West Fest focused on healthcare workers, the unsung heroes of the pandemic. With increasing COVID-19 rates, did that theme carry on into this year? Yes. Methodist Hospital in Oak Cliff is one of our sponsors. The hospital is bringing back their artist Miguel Don Juan, a member of the Sour Grapes Art Collective, for this year’s festival. Last year’s theme was about heroes in healthcare. This year is also about healthcare workers who are heroes, but a reminder that we are still in it. [The mural] speaks about the importance of vaccination, so we get beyond this [pandemic].

Are you requiring masks for proof of vaccination for this year’s festival? The festival is not vaccine required. The individual art spaces in the Art Walk have their own policies. Since the mural fest is outdoors, we have a COVID policy where we ask if you’re feeling sick, please stay home and join us online. If you’re within six feet of talking to people, wear masks out of respect, the basic COVID-19 guidance. At the bottom of our maps are COVID guidelines. Since Methodist is our partner, we plugged their health services if people have questions about the vaccine, they can reach out and get a vaccine at their clinic.

Is there going to be a virtual component to the festival, in addition to in-person programming? There will not be a live stream last last year. But, we will be posting on Wild West Mural Fest’s social media channels throughout the day. Some of the muralists will be doing Instagram live all day. That’s a way to plug in if people are stuck at home. Also, the handles of West Dallas Chamber of Commerce and Tin District will be posting.

M.O.M. painting her mural for Wild West Mural Fest
Courtesy of Will Heron

On the artists’ lineup, I saw Mariell Guzman, Sam Lao, Hatziel Flores, M.O.M., and a number of artists we have covered on FrontRow. Mariell is doing a mural for Art Park, the new bar/sculpture park in Trinity Groves. A couple of months ago, she did a partnership with Marker’s Mark, so the alcoholic beverage company will be brining their trailer and photo Booth for people to stop by and take pictures of the Art Walk for free. Brooke Cheney (M.O.M.) is awesome. This is her first public-facing mural for the city, so that’s exciting.

In the past year, a number of public art initiatives have taken place in West Dallas. From Artstillery‘s Family Dollar to Dallas Mexican American Historical League‘s Nuestro Oak Cliff,  artists are using their perspective mediums to ensure West Dallas is being protected, valued, and prioritized. What are your thoughts on the public art initiatives in the community? There’s something special about West Dallas, that, I think, Deep Ellum had in the 90s, what downtown had at some point. But those areas just change. And I just feel like West Dallas still has that. There are artist studios, and they are grinding it out every day. There’s graffiti everywhere. There’s Dead White Zombies. There’s Artstillery, performance artists who meet everyday in West Dallas. It’s not the glossy, fancy art world. It’s the boots on the ground, people making it happen artworks. That’s what I love about it.

We are very cognizant of making sure West Dallas’ perspectives are heard. We are adding murals to the community, We want the community to embrace and love them. We do not feel like it’s outsiders are coming in and painting walls in their area. This year, we have seven artists out of the 25 who have studios in West Dallas. We have three artists on the roster who were born and raised in West Dallas. It’s really important that it feels like West Dallas and feels authentic to the area and community.

This year’s theme is FUTURE / PAST. We wanted artists to consider Where’s Dallas headed? Where’s West Dallas headed? Where do we come from? Where has this land been for hundreds and thousands of years?

Hatziel Flores’ wall at Wild West Mural Fest 2021
Courtesy of Will Heron

How would you answer that question? What do you what is your perspective on West Dallas and Dallas? past, present and future? With any urban sprawling landscapes, there’s going to be development. I am on the side of growth rather than decay. I think part of that is, how are we taking care of our people? How are we taking care of the communities who have lived here for 50, 60 years? We have a mural of the Caddo and Witchita. How are we respecting the people who were in this land a thousand years ago? I think it’s important that we respect what has been here as we move forward and not ignore what’s been going on.

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