Easton Park . Apr 4, 2018

Meet Larissa Stephens: Artist of Easton Park’s Trolley Mural

What drew you to Austin and when did you get involved with the local art scene?

I came to Austin in 2014 as a transfer student to the University of Texas. That same year, I received a great internship opportunity at the Mexic-Arte Museum in the Education Department. I saw how the museum and the City of Austin values arts and culture and participated in my first exhibition while interning there. I began painting murals at HOPE Outdoor Gallery in 2016, which lead to my participation in Houston’s HUE Mural Festival later that year. Since then, I have dedicated much of my time to honing my painting skills and collaborating with other artists in the Austin street art community.

How did you get involved with Creative Action?

After I graduated from college in 2016, I applied to be a Teaching Artist at Creative Action. I was brought on board as a visual arts TA, and after a couple of months I was able to teach a mural club at a middle school. Since then, my focus has primarily been mural arts with 4th-12th grade students.

Where did you get the inspiration for the Easton Park mural project?

We wanted to honor the psychedelic vibe of 60s San Francisco, in conjunction with a more modern, hip Austin feel. We also wanted to make this an opportunity for young people in Creative Action programs to play a part in the project, as it is a playground for kids to play on! It was a challenge to find a way to combine these three ideas, but Lindsay Palmer, Creative Action’s Visual Arts Specialist, drew inspiration from Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Wildish project, where students collected neighborhood plants and incorporated them into a mural. She helped me a great deal in coming up with the design concept, and has served as an amazing Art Director.

What did you enjoy most about working with the kids?

I have to credit Caroline Caswell, Ashley Robin Franklin, Lauren Higgins and Keller McConnell for being the TAs who did hands-on work with our students by taking them to the Sustainable Food Center community garden, collecting leaves and guiding them in the leaf printmaking process. They did a great job collecting and creating source material for the project. It has been awesome for me to collaborate with students by using their work as part of the mural design – they provided all of the pieces, but it was my job to put the leaves into an aesthetically pleasing composition.

What’s your favorite thing to do around Austin?

I love to paint at HOPE Outdoor Gallery – it has helped me grow so much as an artist and to connect with others who are looking to improve their skills and make an impact on those walls and the people who visit them. I also enjoy soaking up the sun and getting a refreshing juice after a few hours of painting in the Austin heat.

What’s your favorite Austin mural/local public art project?

I really enjoy the #elmeromuro project at Mexic-Arte Museum. They have seasonal murals that provide opportunities for Latin artists to display their art in the heart of downtown, and the murals themselves use Spanish language to highlight inclusivity and welcome Spanish speakers to the museum. The murals are painted over eventually, but I believe that speaks to the temporary nature of street art and gives more artists the platform to put their work out there for the world to see.

Photo credit: Diana Ascarrunz

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