“Unsung Heroes of Austin Music” Mural

607 East 9th Street, 78701
Commissioned 2017
Artist: Tim Kerr


In 2017, local artist Tim Kerr partnered with Ghost Notes: Pioneering Spirits of Texas Music to paint “Unsung Heroes of Austin Music.” Commissioned by Public City and situated adjacent to the famous Stubbs Bar-B-Q and amphitheater, the 70-foot-long mural pays homage to several influential homegrown musical artists.


The Red River Cultural District is known for its rich musical history, and today it serves as a major entertainment destination for both Austinites and visitors alike. But most revelers are not aware that this area was once part of East Austin and home to a predominantly Black community that thrived along Waller Creek for a century.

As with many minority communities across the United States, the construction of Interstate 35 (completed in 1962) sliced right through the neighborhood, which had been deemed overcrowded and undesirable by white urban planners. Shortly thereafter, the city began the Brackenridge Urban Renewal Project (also known as “the urban removal”), in which nearly 150 predominantly Black-owned businesses occupying the area from 10th Street to 19th Street (present-day Martin Luther King Boulevard) were demolished to make way for the expansion of Waterloo Park, The University of Texas, and Brackenridge Hospital. But due to floodplain restrictions, redevelopment languished for decades until music venues and bars began to move in during the 1990s, restoring some of the vibrancy that had been wiped away.

Since then, efforts to highlight the history of the Red River Cultural District have included placemaking projects that amplify the stories of those who contributed to its musical legacy and cultural significance. One such project is this mural painted by Tim Kerr, a local musician, visual artist and photographer. Kerr’s mural, along with supporting text by writer Michael Corcoran, tells the stories of Black musicians including: jazz pianist and vocalist Ernie May Miller; jazz trumpeter, composer, producer and musical director Gilbert Askey; jazz guitarist Oscar Moore; and gospel singer and pianist Juanita “Arizona” Dranes.

By depicting the “unsung, subterranean cultural heroes” of the Austin music scene through words and portraits, this mural serves as a form of placemaking that provides not only an aesthetic improvement to the district, but also helps preserve its identity, history, and significance to the city that bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” – Sabrina Ortiz Luna, Assoc. AIA, NOMA

Photo Credits:

Bud Franck, AIA