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Austin-born artist Suzy González wants to make a mural with Austinites' stories

A woman holds two collages showing her family history.
Greta Díaz González Vázquez
KUT News
Artist Suzy González is gathering family photos and stories from multiple communities in Austin to make a mural on the new Austin History Center building.

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Suzy González was the only one in her family born in Austin. For the first years of her life, she lived on the West side of town in a mobile home with her family, her tíos, a Chihuahua and a Dalmatian. She remembers going to Lake Travis, but most memories of the city are blurry. Her family migrated to the northern suburbs of Houston when she was 6.

“I want to normalize and destigmatize the human ability and the need to move,” González says.

To do that, González is carving out space to listen to other people’s stories. She then plans to take what she hears and create a mural that will showcase the essence of migrating to Austin and the diversity of the city. For that, she is holding storytelling workshops at Austin Public Library branches.

A woman projects photos on a screen. Next to her computer, she explains to two other women. The photos showcase people doing art.
Greta Díaz González Vázquez
KUT News
González wants her art to tell the untold stories of people in the city and the everyday memories that make and keep Austin weird.

At the first workshop on Wednesday, six people sat around a table at the Spicewood Springs Library. They came from China, Japan, Iran, and other parts of Texas. Some moved for work, others for love. They shared stories about their family legacies in Austin and their own arrivals to the capital city.

The project is part of the City's program Art in Public Places, and the mural will be part of the Austin History Center building. González wants her art to tell the untold stories of people here and the everyday memories that make, and keep, Austin weird.

“It’s really important for me to talk about the stories of people who are living, and to uplift people while they are alive to tell their own stories,” she said. “Because a lot of the time I think our stories get told for us. And so that, I think, can be really empowering.”

During the first workshop, one woman shared she had just moved from China to Austin a few months ago to care for her grandkid. She now plans to stay and learn English.

Joseph Rodriguez said he moved from Houston almost three decades ago so his son could attend the Texas School for the Deaf. Carlos Truan Jr. said he grew up in Austin and remembers being watched by the Texas Rangers as a kid when his father was one of 12 senators who hid for days to break quorum at the Texas Capitol in 1979.

Two men sit at a table, the one of the right is talking and gesturing with his hands. A woman listens to them on the foreground.
Greta Díaz González Vázquez
KUT News
Joseph Rodriguez shares his story during the public art workshop on Wednesday. Rodriguez moved to Austin in 1988 because he wanted his son to go to the Texas School of the Deaf.

González wants to tell the full story of Austin and hopes to uplift the voices of those who have been underrepresented. But she also wants to make the point that everyone here has a migration history.

After sharing their stories, participants worked on collages to take home. Some included family photos, with the idea to honor their ancestors and themselves. For González, it is important that her art is not extractive. She wants to hear the stories of the community but also wants to give back sharing what she knows best, art.

“I thought that was important to make it reciprocal,” she said. “I don't want in any way ... this to be like, give me your stuff, because there is this level of trust.”

Two collages sit on a desk. One of them is a man holding two girls and phrases around them like "Lake Travis" and "family". The second collage shows a woman holding two girls and words around them such as "Puro Tejana" and "Austin".
Greta Díaz González Vázquez
KUT News
González wants workshop participants to make art to honor their ancestors and themselves.

To inspire the mural, González is also going through the archives at the Austin History Center, getting elbows deep into the city's history. She also hopes to create her own Austin archive with the photos that participants share with her.

Austin residents are encouraged to participate in one of the four remaining workshops that will be held over the next two weeks. González is asking those who will attend to bring meaningful family photos.

  •  Saturday, June 15 | 2 – 4 p.m. |Willie Mae Kirk Public Library
  •  Thursday, June 20| 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. | Menchaca Road Branch Public Library
  • Saturday June 22 | 2 – 4 p.m. | Ruiz Branch Public Library
  • Wednesday, June 26 | 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. | Carver Branch Public Library

Austinites who can’t attend the workshops but want to be part of the project can submit stories of their memories of Austin, or their family’s migration and cultural stories using this Google form.

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