Six Square is the nexus of thriving Black arts and culture in Central East Austin. We re-animate cultural spaces, connect community, and honor the past, present, and future of Austin’s Black Cultural District.
These are the words of a lifelong resident of East Austin upon learning about the removal of a beloved mural at the intersection of 12th and Chicon streets in his neighborhood in May of 2017. The new owners of the building painted over the mural with white paint, which was a stinging representation of the gentrification and co-opting of a neighborhood that has traditionally been home to black and brown residents. Numerous people in the community were outraged about the removal of the mural, and a local nonprofit, Six Square - Austin’s Black Cultural District, got involved to turn that outrage into a productive community movement. Six Square facilitated several conversations and invited local leaders and community members to voice their concerns about the changing tide in the neighborhood, as well as discuss what could be done to restore residents’ personal connection to the East Austin area. As a result of these talks, Six Square took guardianship of the wall and commissioned the artist of the original mural, Chris Rogers, to conceptualize and paint a new mural.
As soon as the piece was completed, it became widely accepted as an expression of Black culture in what was once a thriving Black community in East Austin. The new mural was finished in February of 2018, and Six Square hosted a celebration that brought East Austin residents of all ages and backgrounds out en masse to view the new artwork. The celebration helped to bridge the intersection of the diverse groups that now live in East Austin. The mural includes 41 faces, and includes local artists like Riders Against the Storm and the Peterson Brothers, as well as industry superstars, such as James Brown, Nina Simone, and Prince. Many residents shared that the celebration made 12th Street feel like “the old East Austin,” and helped to instill hope for more genuine preservation efforts of the culture in the neighborhood.
Cover image: courtesy of Six Square