Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

‘Austintatious’ original artists, UT alumni return to restore mural after defacing

Amelia Engstorm

With paint-splattered shirts, acrylic colors and over fifty years of friendship, artists Kerry Awn, Tommy Bauman and Rick Turner set off to restore the vibrant hues and rich culture of the “Austintatious” mural after its defacing in early March.

“The public demands (we come back),” Awn said. “We didn’t know (the mural) was a lifetime job at the time, but we have fun. … It’s kept us together all through life.”

Awn, Bauman and Turner met as UT students and created the “Austintatious” mural inspired by their original comic book of the same name in 1974. After the mural was tagged a month ago, the University Co-op contacted the artists about repairs. Restorations began Monday and will continue for three weeks.

“(The Co-op) calls us back whenever it gets graffitied or messed up,” Awn said. “The last time the wall was cracking (and needed) to be replastered. … Really the paint is holding this whole thing together.”

The trio also made trips home in 1982, 2002, 2014 and 2022, with this visit marking the fifth restoration. Painted postcards on the top right of the mural display the dates of previous restorations. The artists add new buildings and historical structures to the piece each time, Turner said. 

“(Additions are) normally dictated by whatever is happening in popular culture at the moment,” Turner said. “In terms of the buildings themselves, that would be whatever is new and newsworthy in Austin’s architecture. … It keeps the mural alive. It is a living, evolving, growing thing.”

What now acts more as an artery to the Drag, 23rd Street used to have a life of its own. Vendors lined the street down several blocks, Awn said, inspiring the mural’s placement.

“This was like the center of the universe back in the day,” Awn said. “This was a perfect wall.” 

Awn, Bauman and Turner presented the University Co-op with their design in 1973 and painted the mural for free. The piece quickly gained the public’s admiration. The Co-op soon bought the mural for $1,000 and still maintains ownership.

“You could tell right away everybody loved it,” Awn said. “It’s really been a touchstone of Austin.”

The three artists also painted the mural of Texas adjacent to the “Austintatious” mural in 2003. That mural was also tagged earlier this year and will undergo similar restorations. Awn said, at the time, he didn’t think “Austinatious” would grow into an important part of Austin’s history.

“I thought it might last five years at the most,” Awn said. “We didn’t know it was gonna still be up 50 years later.”

A poster with a QR code now sits to the left of the mural taking passersby to an interactive website upon scanning. Mike Woolf, director at Austin production company Beef and Pie, made the site that showcases 10 short films about the characters, musicians and artists portrayed within the mural. Woolf said the project creates another way of preserving the mural’s story.

“I think it’s terrible that it was vandalized, but it reminds us how this is public art,” Woolf said. “It’s not in a museum. That’s what I think is special about it.”

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