Crestview Wall of Welcome: Art bringing neighbors together

Neighbors cheered the dedication of the Wall of Welcome, a community mosaic five years in the making

Crestview Wall of Welcome: Art bringing neighbors together
Photo by John Anderson

"The Wall of Welcome celebrates those who created the Brentwood and Crestview neighborhood and those who continue to create it now. This neighborhood has roots and wings. Our feet are in the cotton and our heads are in the violet crown. May the spirit live on!"

– Jean Graham, engraved on the Wall of Welcome

At first glance, the dedication ceremony seemed more like a block party or a 7-year-old's birthday celebration. Jugglers tossed neon bowling pins into the gray spring sky. A 10-foot puppet of a galloping pig loomed in the corner. And in front of a 120-foot mosaic, a dozen people, all sporting homemade violet crowns of feathers, glitter, and Mardi Gras beads, held a purple ribbon.

But the anticipation among the couple hundred Brentwood and Crestview neighbors packed around the Crestview Shopping Center was a reminder of the momentous occasion: the dedication of the Wall of Welcome, a community mosaic five years in the making, inspired by the vision of local artist Jean Graham.

"Wow! We did it!" Graham cheered at the podium to thunderous applause. In 2003, she received a cultural contract from the city of Austin to create a community art project that would bring together the older and younger residents of her neighborhood. Using photographs from longtime residents, the open fields in the mosaic reflect how the neighborhood first looked in the 1950s. "When I moved here, in 1952, this was all sunflowers and Johnson grass," says Bill Williamson, Crestview resident and the metalsmith who made the star at the top of the Texas Capitol rotunda.

Excited by Graham's vision, Brentwood and Crestview residents joined together to form the nonprofit Violet Crown Community Works. It sponsored an annual fundraiser in Brentwood Park, where residents could sign up to design their own tiles for the wall. Graham held tile-making classes in the local Lions Club facility.

After five years of working nearly every weekend out by the wall, measuring, grouting, sweating, freezing, meeting neighbors new and old, this past Saturday, the Wall of Welcome project came to a close for Jean Graham and hundreds in her community. But although the ribbon was cut, to the cheers of the elderly in folding chairs beside bands of kids playing Pokémon, it appears unlikely that the community will cease their work on another project begun with the wall: the art of getting to know your neighbors.

"This wall has brought so many people together," says resident Barbra King. "When I first saw the display tiles at the tent at the Violet Crown Festival, I thought I could never do that. I'm a spaz! But Jean said, 'Yes, you can.' Jean brought us together and brought the art out of us. What can I say? It's just amazing."

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