New Longhorn mural adds color to West Campus

Nataleah Small

A multicolored, abstract mural of a longhorn will soon brighten the north wall of The Castilian above the sidewalk on 24th Street.

American Campus Communities, which owns The Castilian, commissioned Austin-based artist Micheline Halloul to paint the colorful piece. 

The West Campus location was chosen to pay tribute to school spirit at the University, Gina Cowart, vice president of branding, marketing and communications strategy for American Campus Communities, said in an email.

“American Campus Communities believes in investing in the communities where we have a presence, and that includes working with local artists to showcase their work at our residential communities,” Cowart said in an email. 

The mural is being painted above the doorway of The Castilian’s north stair to create an “Instagrammable” space, Halloul said. 

“We placed it right above the doorway so that people could stand toward the edge of the sidewalk and take a picture,” Halloul said. 

Halloul said she began collaborating with American Campus on the mural design last fall but didn’t start painting until late January. Halloul said she is not a professionally trained artist, but this project marks her first year as a muralist. Halloul said she saw a post for the project on Thumbtack, an online service that matches customers with local professionals, such as painters and personal trainers. 

“The Thumbtack post had an image of an iPhone text message bubble,” Halloul said. “(It had) some sort of phrase referring to UT, and then it had a hook ‘em emoji. That was American Campus’ idea for the building.”

Cowart said American Campus coordinated with University sports representatives to ensure their design aligned with UT longhorn trademarks. After the University denied the original text message design, Halloul said American Campus settled on a longhorn. She said the final design was based on a photograph she took of a longhorn in the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

Halloul said American Campus wanted the mural to be colorful, so she transformed the original photograph into a digital drawing using Adobe Illustrator and added more colors to the design. 

“I presented them the final image, and they were totally on board,” Halloul said. “It was like we all connected.” 

Government sophomore Caroline Puryear said she likes the mural’s bright colors and geometric shapes. Puryear said the mural could be a good draw for the University as it is longhorn-themed and located in West Campus.

“I hope that with it being in the West Campus area, with West Campus being so nice and having so many students, that nice high quality art in West Campus will make it a nicer place,” Puryear said. 


Anthropology freshman Jessica Seymour said she loves how murals can influence an area.

“I love art,” Seymour said. “I love that it can really transform a space from boring and bland to something that is both beautiful and also meaningful in a lot of ways.”

Seymour said when she was driving by The Castilian, she saw Halloul painting the mural. Seymour said the piece might become one of her favorite murals in the city.

“I like that it’s bright colors and it’s different from a regular (mural),” Seymour said. “It’s not boring or stuffy. It’s very abstract and it’s cool.”