Up close, it’s a giant mosaic mural on the exterior of Abode Venue. But from Douglas, it’s an intricately designed painting.
Or at least that’s what artist Steve Murillo hopes people will think when they drive by his new mural at 1330 E. Douglas.
On Friday afternoon, officials with the Douglas Design District unveiled the roughly 12-by-18-foot mural. Murillo and Abode Venue owner Bill Jackson think the piece will become a cornerstone, “the bedrock” that other artists can build on, Jackson said.
“It’s going to be a signature piece of Wichita for a long time,” Jackson said.
The piece, “Music’s Magic,” was first conceptualized as a scale black and white model, which was then enlarged, Murillo said. Murillo and his assistant Margi Sweeton began assembling tiles in jigsaw-puzzle style, dying the grout around each piece to correspond with the color of the tile. In all, it took Murillo about eight months to complete the piece.
“When people first drive by, it looks like a painting because of all the subtle grout colors,” Murillo said. “You can’t tell where one piece ends and another one starts. I want people to see it as one big, fluid design.”
A variety of musical instruments and notes adorn the mural, which Jackson said reflects his passion for music.
“I don’t play any instruments but I go to a lot of concerts,” Jackson said. “I listen to music probably an hour or two every day, it seems like.”
“Music’s Magic” weighs about 3,000 pounds and is cemented, mortared and – for good measure – screwed into the Abode’s facade. It cost between $25,000 and $30,000 to complete, Jackson said.
“It won’t be gone in six months or a year from now,” Jackson said. “Ceramic tile never fades. There’s ceramic tile in Italy that’s 2,000 years old and still looks as good as when they put it in.”
Jackson is considered the founder of the Douglas Design District, where he hopes all varieties of artists can make their home.
“Sometimes it just takes one key piece to get people thinking they want to be down there,” he said.
He said the key to making Douglas Design District a success is public art, to save it from becoming a “concrete canyon.”
Multiple public art projects are underway in the district, including a mural series based on an “earth, wind, fire and water” theme. Two are done: One is on the west wall of The Anchor, one is on Logan Street Fine Wood Products, and the third and fourth will be installed closer to the Douglas and Oliver area, said Karen Cundiff, board member of the district.
Jackson said Murillo took extra time on this mural, because he believed it could be his lasting legacy in Wichita. Though Murillo has been commissioned for many public art pieces in town before, including the standing stones at Central Riverside Park and the shade structures at Old Town Square, he said this mural could indeed be what people remember him for.
“It’s possible; I’ll let history decide that,” Murillo said.