"It's really a collaborative [project]," says artist Ethan Azarian of his latest outdoor mural. "The nice thing about it is, the kids are so... they're already artists. They're not afraid to make a mark. I really like working with young people, because I like the enthusiasm and I like the fact that they're just not afraid to make a mark. It's exciting for me -- I really enjoy the whole process."
For this currently-in-progress mural, Azarian's working with about thirty young people; the students of Kealing Middle School's art program have been his assistants and creative collaborators on the piece, which at around 150 feet, will cover most of the back side of Kealing when completed.
"I was approached by a community member who thought it might be a good pairing for me to do an art project with Kealing," says Azarian. "I live in the neighborhood -- I'm about a mile away -- and I started talking to the volunteer parent coordinator, Dee Gonzales, and she recommended that I talk to Ms. Ventura, who's the art teacher, who recommended that I talk to Ms. Coburn, the principal. We all started a dialogue about preserving the culture in East Austin because it's so quickly changing."
All that discussion eventually led to a partnership with the city's Cultural Arts Division and a decision to make the mural -- at least in part -- a tribute to some of the former and still existing landmarks of Kealing's East Austin neighborhood. To create the mural, Azarian's received not just assistance but creative input from Kealing's art students, who've been working with him to create the mural for the past couple of months. Azarian's been loving working with the young artists.
"Everybody who works on it brings a different aesthetic to the mural, whether it be with their composition or choice or color," he says. "I'm just sort of overseeing it, sort of guiding them through the whole process. And I'm picking and choosing little parts of the mural that I get to paint, which is really exciting because I don't have to paint the whole thing. They're actually doing most of the work."