Artist unveils 4,000 square foot mural in McCombs’ new Rowling Hall

Nicole Stuessy

Hundreds gathered Friday night for the unveiling of Jose Parla’s 4,000-square-foot mural, “Amistad America,” at Robert B. Rowling Hall. Five years in the making, the abstract mural combines elements of graffiti, calligraphy and cave painting.

“Amistad America,” which translates from Spanish to “Friendship America,” was inspired by the natural and cultural landscape of Texas. The mural was funded by Landmarks, the University’s public art program. Parla is the Landmarks program’s youngest commissioned artist and got his start as a street artist.

“One of the questions that has always been posed to me is ‘Now that you are coming out of the world of graffiti and into the fine arts world, how hard was that transition?’” Parla said. “For me, there was never a transition because that would be to acknowledge that graffiti wasn’t art.”

When creating the painting, Parla used a mixture of plaster and paint and his hand as a brush.

“When working on this piece, I wanted it to feel that not only is there a history in the theme of the piece, but that the surface of the work tells you about the depth of what happened,” Parla said. “Like scars in our body, mental scars.”

Currently, Landmarks has 41 public art pieces on campus, including commissioned pieces and pieces on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“Landmarks was founded specifically prioritizing public art,” Landmarks communications coordinator Emmy Laursen said. “Our mission is to beautify campus while also allowing people to interact with public art because for many students, this may be their first interaction with public art.”

Studio art sophomore Lindsay Davis said events such as this are why she chose to go to UT.

“I was hesitant about going to UT for art, and this is one of the reasons that I’m happy that I made this decision,” Davis said. “It’s special to be able to hear the artist talk not only about the process but also to have Landmarks fund these kinds of projects.”

Parla said people have questioned why he would display his art at Rowling Hall, the new graduate school for the McCombs School of Business set to open
later this year.

“And I say, ‘Why not?’ This is a great place for people to have these conversations, and future business leaders will have the power to make decisions for the world,” Parla said.