WICHITA FALLS – The resiliency of Wichita Falls shined through rainy weather as the community gathered to celebrate the completion of the Better Together Mural at the intersection of 7th and Indiana in Downtown Wichita Falls.
The Alliance commissioned the iconic mural in February 2020. Former executive director Margie J. Reese envisioned an outdoor public art piece that drove and increased downtown visitorship while representing how this community rallies together in hard times. That sentiment would soon become a reality as the COVID-19 pandemic caused challenges for the entire community.
During the pandemic, local artists Steve Hilton and Jesse Baggett were selected as lead designers for the mosaic tile mural. The Wichita Falls 4B Sales Tax Corporation would later grant permission and funding for the mural to be installed in the city-owned Lindemann parking garage on 7th and Indiana. The funding comes from a portion of the city’s sales tax collection.
“People coming through our town that don’t even live here that are stopping and buying things are helping fund things like this mural – things that we get to enjoy as residents of North Texas,” said 4B Board president Tony Fidelie said.
Despite three years of delays and obstacles, Hilton and Baggett would go on to lead dozens of MSU Texas Fain Fine Arts students and local artists to create over 2,000 handmade clay tiles. The four-story artwork depicts larger-than-life creatures, including a panda, flamingo, donkey, and even a 13-foot-tall elephant, working together to hang the moon.
The nonprofit art community, civic leaders, city staff, downtown business owners, and educators from MSU Texas gathered for a dedication ceremony on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, at the Wichita Falls Brewing Company after Mother Nature dampened plans for an outdoor celebration.
“This mural that is back here behind us, it’s a piece of public art, so it’s not really ours,” Hilton said. “It’s yours. It happened because of you.”
Alliance Executive Director Ann Arnold-Ogden said she hopes this mural draws people downtown.
“At the height of the pandemic, people really weren’t shopping or really doing anything, so this was meant to be a way for us to come together, safely outdoors, and experience beautiful artwork,” Arnold-Ogden said. “This is for our community. This is for the businesses here that work so hard every day. This is for the artists who work hard to make a living doing what they love. It takes all of us working together.”
Baggett and Hilton also thanked the following individuals for contributing to this project: Ferdine LeBlanc, Audra Lambert, Chrysa Jacobs, Fuago, Jayce Downing, Rogelio Nunez, Alissa Donaldson, and Francis Sims.
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Texas Commission on the Arts also supported this project.