Former UT student brings her art back to campus

Mason Carroll

Two years after withdrawing from UT to pursue her love for art, Emily Ding will be bringing a pop of color back to the Forty Acres in an unexpected way.

UP Art Studio created the Mini Mural Project in 2016 to bring art to unique places in Austin and Houston by having artists create works of art on traffic signal control cabinets. Ding was one of four artists chosen, and she will paint the cabinet at MLK Boulevard and Guadalupe Street next month. 

Ding will also create two designs for the utility box, and the community will vote on a final design. 

“It’s interesting because I didn’t expect to be chosen,” Ding said. “I’m excited, and I want to see what I can do for the campus since I got a lot of good things out of my years there.”

The project started in Houston, and there are now over 200 mini murals around the city. Elia Quiles, UP Art Studio co-owner, said the studio wants to bring an equally successful program to Austin and is partnering with the Austin Transportation Department to create the murals. 


“We have designed this program to support civic art and to beautify neighborhoods throughout Austin,” Quiles said. “These works of art will transform a drab traffic signal control cabinet into a vibrant piece of civic art.”

UP Art Studios held public meetings Sunday to allow community input on each cabinet’s design. Students and other members of the community showed up to give their opinions about what the mural should be. 

“I’m excited to see what we come up with,” Ding said. “I’m just really interested in seeing what kind of messages or images we’ll put on the mini mural because it’s a small surface.”

Allie Runas, a member of the West Campus Neighborhood Association, said she came to the meeting to give suggestions because she enjoys looking at street art on her way to class. 

“It’s something that can bring the community together in a collective experience,” said Runas, a software engineering senior. “I walk through campus and see all these white walls and think ‘Hm, we could put artwork here.’”

Quiles said the studio’s goal is to spread the mural project to as many cities as possible. 

“The project embodies our mission of ‘Civic Pride through Civic Art,’ where we aim to educate, move and engage people through public art and help create a sense of place,” Quiles said. “It is exciting to be involved in a project that allows us to have an impact on many neighborhoods throughout the city.”

Ding said she is excited to give back to the campus that gave so much to her, but she is also looking forward to walking around her old stomping grounds and coming up with new ideas.

“Bottom line, I am just really looking forward to being back on campus,” Ding said. “It’s been a decent amount of time since I segued into my own art career, so I’m excited to bring that back to the community.”