The idea started over “cube talk” in the art department. As Emily Kimbro, our art director, and Victoria Millner, our designer, discussed how to approach Michael Hall’s cover story on Austin, they knew they wanted something iconic. Yes, the city is famous for the UT Tower, the Capitol, live music, and barbecue, but those ideas were too obvious by themselves. Previously there had been talk about photographing prominent people from the story. That led to a discussion about the popularity of South Congress Avenue and using it to re-create the image from Abbey Road (yes, we actually considered that for a second or two). Then the light bulb went off: murals have become a staple of Austin culture, so Kimbro suggested that we commission one on South Congress that would serve as the cover but also become a destination for passersby.
At that point all we needed was a wall, an illustrator, a muralist, and a photographer (oh, and maybe a security guard to chase away would-be mural defacers). It turned out that art assistant Nicki Longoria spotted a wall at South Congress Books on her way in to work one morning. Even better, while looking at that space, she had the idea of leaving part of the mural unfinished to reinforce the notion that Austin itself is still under construction.
Creative director T. J. Tucker reached out to Brooklyn illustrator Aaron Meshon to work on the sketch, and he hired Mike Johnston, an Austin artist, to paint it. Photography editor Leslie Baldwin contacted the owners of South Congress Books and nailed down the permissions to actually paint the thing (one more item to add to the list: extra insurance!). She then asked one of our favorite local photographers, Jeff Wilson, to shoot it.
(A time-lapse video of the making of the mural.)
Once Meshon finished his image, Johnston projected it on the wall and began his work. With a crew of six, he completed the project in five days, with plenty of folks stopping by to ask questions and snap pictures. There was more discussion of the need for a security guard, but thankfully that wasn’t necessary (at least as of press time). So what do we want you to do? Now that you’ve seen the cover, go see the mural for yourself and take in the city that Hall writes about so thoughtfully. Of course, you’ll want to take a selfie, so share it with us @texasmonthly and use the hashtag #TMnewaustin.
We’ve already started. See our 2016 staff photo below:
The March issue will be on newsstands February 25, 2016.