- 2017 (restoration), 2019
- Artists: Oscar Cortez, Felipe Garza, Robert Herrera, Taner Martinez, Joe Perez, Steven Rendon, David Santos
The Holly Street Murals are a collection of public artworks painted by local artists commissioned to celebrate the heritage of the neighborhood surrounding the Holly Street Power Plant.
From ancient Rome to modern times, graffiti has been used as a form of personal expression, political commentary, and cultural preservation. More than 25 years ago, at the beginning of the Austin’s graffiti art movement, artist Robert Herrera was commissioned to paint a mural across the sound wall of the Holly Street Power Plant. At the time, the power plant was seen as an invasive piece of infrastructure in the middle of the established East Austin neighborhood; the addition of the murals was intended to soften the intervention.
Over time, Herrera—along with a dozen other artists and community members—created a series of murals that evoke a wide range of cultural themes and messages, from traditional Mexican and Chicano imagery to ancient Aztec motifs to snapshots of daily life. One of the most prominent themes is the deep-rooted history of struggle by this marginalized community. Murals like Por La Raza (“for the race”) by Robert Herrera, Taner Martinez, and David Santos tell a story of pride and unity intended to keep the community’s rich history alive. Restored in 2017, the mural is among the most vibrant on display.
In the years that followed the initial project, murals for the remaining walls were commissioned by local artists with the hopes of promoting public art by Chicano, Mexican, indigenous, and Latino artists. Because the concrete masonry walls that host the murals were never intended for that purpose, the artworks have gone through periods of intense degradation from tagging, water damage, and UV exposure. According to Preservation Austin: “Many of the original artists who painted the Holly Street Murals are part of Arte Texas, and they have led the way in working to assure that the artworks are archived, remembered, and preserved for years to come.” – Stephanie Gussman