Wallspace With Permission – Austin’s Untapped Canvas

After last night’s public briefing on the boardwalk design, i rounded the corner at city hall and noticed a painted wall with the website “placingroutes.org”. This morning I checked them out, and was delighted to discover what Placing Routes is about.

idea —> proposal —> permission —> realization

simply put, the business owner has a wall/space and the artist has an idea/concept. from there, a mural, a sculpture, a piece of art is born.

CASH mural at Wahoos. This awesome pic is from Austin Texas Daily Photo

Artists paired with buildings.  Have an artistic idea for a wall space?  Artist or building can bring an idea to the table.  Take permanence off the table, and you open up a world of opportunity, especially in downtown Austin.

A few years back, I helped to launch Wallspace Media, an advertising company that did this with projection.  We obtained permission to utilize wallspace, and did our thing.  You see this with graffiti artists, too, who developed the concept of “permission walls”.  Walk down E 5th, and across from Cafe Mundi you’ll see a massive amount of artwork on the back of an aging warehouse.  All done with permission.

As you walk around town, you’ll notice the potential for this.  Stark surfaces everywhere have the potential to bring vibrancy to the community, and energy to those who see it.

About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of TOWERS Realty and publisher of Downtown Austin Blog (aka. "DAB"), spends his time matching remarkable people with remarkable properties in Austin’s urban core. A resident owner in downtown Austin, Jude has served on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.


  1. Angelina says

    Fantastic idea. And it seems like something artists and business/home owners can get away with easier on the East Side. A project like this Downtown would involve way too many city bureaucrats to be worth the effort.

    East side however……..got me thinking.

  2. Years ago when I headed up the Downtown Austin Alliance’s Arts & Entertainment Committee, we worked on a formal project similar to this. Downtown Murals is what we called it, patterned after some pretty amazing mural projects in cities elsewhere, both large and small, many in Canada and Europe. After completing several dozens such “building canvases”, many cities published walking guides of all of them and marketed the murals as celebrated and featured aspects of their city’s lifestyle and culture. They are often very popular photos ops and visitor must-see’s (ie: Austin’s Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Auditorium Shores.)

    So as Committee Chair I thought I’d kick off such an effort here utilizing the vast, empty, drab, 15 x 80 foot 8th Street wall of my then-building at the corner of Congress Ave. We gathered a half-dozen of our gallery’s most talented artists together and said we’d finance the materials on such a signature piece if they would conceive it and paint it. After several weeks, they came up with this amazing, vibrant, flowing visual story of music and Austin and icons.

    We were told that, since we were in a zoned historic district (even though our building was not historic), we needed permits as well as approvals from the Historic Landmark Commission. So we started down that hazardous road. Long story short, our mural was denied unless it could be changed to one of historic content and utilized all sepia-colored (essentially variations of brown) tones. I kid you not. The artists refused. We refused. For a dozen years now that wall has remained it’s increasingly drab and soulless expanse of nothing.

  3. I wish they could do some kind of mural on the State of Texas garage across from 360. It’s soo plain and dull. Of course, public art is needed at other spots throughout downtown as well.

  4. Yes…a number of these efforts are chronicled on Austin, Texas Daily Photo:
    including some that are no more.

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