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'Visual music of murals': Upcoming book showcases 100+ local artists from the street art sphere

"ATX Urban Art" will feature over 100 local artists keeping Austin's walls colorful, past and present.

You know Austin as the Live Music Capital of the World but local urban artist J Muzacz wants you to know the city as the “Urban Art Capital of the World.”

Austin has yet to be christened with such a title but Muzacz is hoping to make household names of local mural, mosaic, street and graffiti artists with a new book titled, “ATX Urban Art.” Muzacz and his team are less than $10,000 away from their $25,000 crowdfunding goal on Indiegogo.

Divided into a chapter for each medium, over 100 local artists will be featured across 500 pages and more than 1,000 pictures in the book, which will be independently published by Muzacz and his motley crew of art school interns. Muzacz said he believes the book will be the first of its kind to showcase Austin's local artists in this format

“There are no books like this in Austin—there's no mural book, there's no graffiti book, there's no street art, nothing,” Muzacz said. “So this book, hopefully, is going to teach some people the vernacular, how to identify these certain things, and maybe even help people to appreciate graffiti, even if it is illegal.”

Muzacz started his art career off doing graffiti in middle school, which he continued during his time at the University of Texas at Austin before branching off into murals and his most recent medium, mosaics. He stayed in Austin, with some stints abroad, and now works out of East Austin's Something Cool Studios.

J Muzacz has been an artist in Austin for almost 20 years, even teaching urban painting classes for the CIty of Austin for nine years. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

The book was thought up in partnership with since-graduated interns Justin Ebel, a graphic designer and photographer, and Zoe Axelrod, a designer and Ringtone Mag founder. The pair also helped organize a comprehensive art map that provides a tour of “off the beaten path” urban artworks, including many in the book.

Going back to the 1950s, the project recounts some history about the hardships creatives’ faced with the legality of their art, gives artists a space to tell their stories, and tells the stories of artists like like Raul Valdez, Reji Thomas and Daniel Johnston, who flourished before social media was around to uplift them.

“(Urban art) is the purest form of art, I feel like, because it's not about financial gain and it's free to the public. There's something greater than commercial reasons to be doing this type of art,” Muzacz said. “This is an artist developing, evolving a craft and respecting a culture, despite the legal repercussions, despite having to pay for or steal their own paint.”

The book has a chapter each for murals, graffiti, street art and mosaics. (Zoe Axelrod)

“ATX Urban Art” also includes a host of artists who still paint the streets today, including prominent local faces like Sloke One, Bill Tavis, Angry Cloud + Descnd, Levi Ponce and Hope Hummingbird from diverse mediums. Muzacz said he hopes people use the book as an encyclopedia of local names.

“I want people to have this book as a Rolodex for your art commission, or if you have a business and you want a mural,” Muzacz said. “Here are the pioneers, here are the professionals, here are the most unique practitioners, the prolific practitioners, these are the people that need to and will keep shining, these are the names you should know.”

The book will continue crowdfunding through mid-January, and until then you will be able to snag the hefty book for $60 or the art map for $10. The book will be printed, regardless of if the group hits their goal, but Muzacz said he wouldn’t mind investments into their work.

Plus, the money goes to support artists, the design team and keeps the community colorful.

“Drive around or walk around today and imagine all those murals, street art and graffiti weren't there and think of what that space would feel like,” Muzacz said. “I'd say right now, nobody would want to live there. (During COVID), a lot of people said that the music was turned down and the visual art was turned up. Part of the Austin experience is the visual music of murals.”


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