With support from the city and a sizable state grant, the Georgetown Arts and Culture Board continues to grow the city’s public arts program, including the addition of its 14th mural later this year.

In September, the Texas Commission for the Arts awarded the board a grant of $104,500 to help fund the new South Main Arts District, part of the larger Downtown Cultural District that spans from Second Street to the north, University Avenue to the south in between Scenic Drive to the west and Church Street to the east. This is the largest TCA grant Georgetown has received to date.

“Georgetown’s public art program has some exciting opportunities for growth this year,” Georgetown Arts Coordinator Amanda Still said.

The funds will be used to convert the parking lot adjacent to the Georgetown Arts Center at 816 S. Main St., Georgetown, into a green space used for future arts programming, festivals and art installations.

“TCA’s main focus is to help small cities like Georgetown develop programs that will expand cultural tourism opportunities,” TCA Executive Director Gary Gibbs said.

Approved in June by City Council, the space will be designed by Georgetown-based Covey Landscape Architects in partnership with the Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department. Still expects construction to start in the summer and hopes for completion in time for the Autumn Art Stroll and inaugural Arts Festival in October.

The TCA has also provided partial funding for other Georgetown public art installations, including murals at businesses and nonprofit buildings such as “Preserving History” by Norma Clark and Devon Clarkson at the African-American Shotgun House; “Railroad Rhythm” by Molly Keen at Georgetown Title; and “Traditions for the Future” by Mila Sketch at To Have and To Hold.

Community participation

After the initial mural installments—the first went up in 2015—the board started to see interest from local business owners. In October, the owners of One Love Tattoos were excited to receive approval from the board for a concept at their Williams Drive building.

“Our business, One Love Tattoos, is focused on body art and self-expression. When we had the opportunity to add a mural to our building and add to the [commercial mural] program, we were happy to do so,” One Love Tattoos owner Jennifer Brown said.

The commercial mural program allows for business owners to submit an application for a mural easement to begin the process of adding the work to their building.

For each submission, business owners can either hire an artist on their own, or the board can help curate one. But before the project can begin, there is a lengthy review process. The board must agree with the selected artist, approve of an original mural design and propose the project to the City Council.

“Murals undergo a tedious review process. ... It may take a few months,” Still said. “There are several guidelines in place.”

First, the board and City Council must approve of a mural easement at their respective monthly meetings.

Second, there has to be a formal agreement with the board and business owner on who the artist is going to be, what the design is and who is responsible for the funding.

“The commercial mural program typically means the installment is paid [for] by the property owner,” Still said. “But we can help them apply for grants.”

Commercial murals in Georgetown include “Greetings from Georgetown Texas” by Sarah Blankenship at Gus’s Drugs and “Best Friends” by Jay Rivera and J Muzacz at Wag Heaven.

Regardless of the number of murals, the program would be nothing without community engagement, according to Still.

Still said the board and the city will host a ceremony for the “Traditions of the Future” mural, located at 215 W. Eighth St., at the Spring Art Stroll on April 21. The celebration will include a photo booth, face painting and dedication from Mayor Josh Schroder.

The first phase of “Traditions of the Future” by Mila Sketch was done in 2018, who was then asked to come back in January 2022 to expand the piece.

“I love creating public art in small towns as it’s a more personal connection to people. On the one hand, artists can meet the community members, and it’s mutually impactful,” said the Austin-based Sketch. “On the other hand, bringing cool art into small towns positively impacts tourism, and makes locals get out more, spend time outside, take memorable pictures and have more fun.”

The next mural installation will be at the Heritage Community Garden at 2100 Hutto Road. The board issued a call for artists in February, and an artist will be selected in the coming weeks.

Rich in history

With Georgetown experiencing record growth, the board has made it a priority to focus on the city’s history and how it ties into its future.

“Georgetown is a community with a rich history that surrounds us,” Preservation Georgetown board Chair Mickie Ross said. “The more people you can engage, the better, and we definitely use our historic buildings and public art to better that engagement for residents and visitors alike.”

“Preserving History” is a public mural that showcases Georgetown’s history in the modern era. Located at the African-American Shotgun House, which holds significant meaning to Georgetown educators and the African American community, the mural attracts community members and tourists from all backgrounds.

The city purchased the Shotgun House—built between 1920 and 1930—in 1996 and opened it as a museum in 2002 following a 2001 restoration project and had repairs to the building completed in 2016.

“Because the mural serves as the backdrop to the Shotgun House, the board worked with the Georgetown Cultural Citizen Memorial Association to identify a theme that celebrated the surrounding neighborhood and stakeholders,” Still said. “It gave us a really cool opportunity to engage and do some research.”

Artist Devon Clarkson chose Mary Smith Bailey as the subject because of her dedication to the youth and her community. Bailey founded the first preschool in the area to offer educational opportunities to African American children, according to Still and the Georgetown website.

Norma Clark, a local artist and graduate of Southwestern University, then added a montage of abstract images adjacent to Smith’s portrait.

“The collaboration of the two artists represents the integration of different artist styles to create something innovative while also preserving local history,” Still said.

Supporting GISD art initiatives

Georgetown City Council approved an extension of an interlocal agreement Feb. 22 between the board and Georgetown ISD for an additional five years, giving GISD students the opportunity to showcase their work in public venues under the board’s purview.

The agreement states that the board, the city and GISD will work together to select student artists and designs suitable for the ongoing project. GISD is responsible for needed materials up to $500. The city will also hire an artist to oversee the installment for a cost not to exceed $500.

“It is important to include our students in local art opportunities,” GISD Fine Arts Director Carol Watson said.

The first visual art implementation between GISD and the board came in 2019 when Georgetown High School art teacher Angela Morin submitted a proposal for “Everyone Deserves Kindness” by Georgetown High School student Peyton Vega located along the south exterior wall of Tejas Meat Supply.

Under the renewed agreement between the city, the GAC board and GISD, there will be a new mural added to the wall at Tejas Meat Supply every year. GISD also participates in other citywide programs such as art exhibits at the Georgetown Public Library and the Georgetown Arts Center.

“There is a strong sense of connectivity between the city of Georgetown, the community of Georgetown and Georgetown ISD fine arts,” Watson said. “This agreement allows our students to have continued access to showcase their hard work.”