A cinderblock wall in downtown Waco recently received a vibrant makeover when four artists and 10 Waco Independent School District (ISD) students painted a colorful mural this past summer. Titled “1,000 Hopes for Waco,” the mural is located on University Parks Drive near Bicycle World and depicts a modern cubist portrayal of a paper crane taking flight.
A three-week preparation period and five-week painting process brought the entire project to a close in only eight weeks. In collaboration with Creative Waco and Waco ISD, the 10 students who participated in the “ArtPrenticeship Program” were compensated for their work.
Larry Carpenter, director of fine arts for the Waco ISD, worked closely with Creative Waco Executive Director Fiona Bond and others to find the student interns and make the mural possible, a process which he found quite gratifying throughout.
“Seeing them connected as a group and with the artists that they worked with, and the pride that they had with what they completed – seeing all of that come to fruition was pretty awesome,” Carpenter said. “It’s really peaked a lot of interest around the community as well.”
Though the beauty of the mural speaks for itself, the symbolism of the painting and background of one particular artist offer deeper context and significance for the mural.
Born and raised in Waco, Will Suarez has always been passionate about art, and the opportunity to work on the mural was a particularly special opportunity for him.
“Art has been a passion of mine ever since I was little,” Suarez said. “My mom kept every drawing I ever did. She literally has a big tub full of sketches and drawings I did when I was little.”
After finding his aptitudes concentrated in the arts, Suarez developed a passion for street art, which continues to influence his style today. While visiting his sister in San Antonio, Suarez would often visit a wall that the city had designated for the use of graffiti artists. There, his passion and style developed and he learned new techniques and practices.
“Different artists from the area would get together and paint and have parties where artists from all over would come and do pieces,” Suarez said. “They never lived long because they would do pieces and then next week someone would paint over it. I got exposed to that and just watching that and learning from them … I loved to watch their techniques.”
In 2013, Suarez began his two-year time as a student at The Art Institute of Austin, where he decided to move back to Waco to pursue design full-time and start a family. While working on branding for a local business, the director of the company encouraged Suarez to apply to be one of the four artists heading the painting of the mural at 315 S. University Parks Drive.
Suarez found inspiration for the mural from multiple sources, including the story of Waco and familial tragedy.
“For this mural, it has meaning tied to Waco, but also has personal meaning to me,” Suarez said. “During the eight-week process, I lost a family member and was still able to overcome that situation and still be able to inspire these kids to keep pursuing their dreams of being an artist or whatever they’re wanting to be.”
Still deeper, the mural has different meaning, depending on the way you look at it, Suarez said.
“If you look at it from right to left, it starts off almost as destruction, unfolding of the crane is taking place,” Suarez said. “In Waco, we’ve gone through a tornado, bad media presence – we’ve survived pretty much everything, but, the crane itself means we are just about to take flight and that’s why his wings are out, because to me, at this point, Waco looks like we have our wings up and are about to ascend and take off.”
Before the artists decided on a mural concept, building owner Shane Turner shared a few specifications he wanted for the painting, one of which was a message of diversity.
“I tried to use a lot of bright colors because they are neutral to all races, all humans,” Suarez said. “The color palette is something I wanted to be really vibrant just to catch people’s attention. Even if they didn’t understand the meaning, it would hopefully put a smile on their face.”
The mural was completed in July and has taken its place as one of the most colorful walls in the downtown area. Since the completion of the mural, Suarez, who had previously only painted a few lower-profile indoor murals, has several new murals in the works, including a five-story building and a six-story building.
Suarez plans to continue his work through his graphic design business, “HI Def Willy,” and painting murals when he gets the chance, with a singular unifying goal across all of his endeavors.
“That is my goal with everything I do. Whether it’s graphic design, a painting, a mural, literally my goal is to bring inspiration to others,” Suarez said.