Story by Samantha Corpus
Photos by Leesie Blaha, Infiniti Photo of College Station
Hours, days, months. That’s how long Sarah Norman and her daughter Katie Neason, co-founders of Renovation Wranglers, stared at the blank wall on West 31st Street in Downtown Bryan.
When Norman and Neason, both Bryanites born and raised, bought land in Downtown Bryan about two and a half years ago, they noticed the blank wall. They thought about painting a mural on the wall for months, but neither could agree what the mural would look like.
Neason started researching other cities with murals to see how they found artists and contracted them. When Neason came across a call for artists online that invited artists to submit what they wanted to paint, it clicked. That was how they were going to do it.
“It would be a way to get the community involved and local painters involved and to bring something to Downtown Bryan that we didn’t have … murals,” says Neason. “And when you go to other cities, it just provides a warmth and a comfort.”
Norman and Neason are not artists. Further, they didn’t know any artists, they didn’t know how to get it done, and they didn’t own the building. They started with the wall’s owner, Phillip Garrett of Conlee and Garrett Moving & Storage, for permission to paint on their building.
Soon after, the mother and daughter duo teamed up with the Downtown Bryan Association, part of whose mission it is to showcase the arts and culture of Bryan, and the Brazos Valley Art Council, which helped to spread the word to artists. They received 15 artist submissions, both local area and from around Texas.
“Downtown Bryan is a Texas Cultural District,” says Sandy Farris, executive director of the Downtown Bryan Association. “We’re one of about 30 cities in the state that have that designation, and that comes from the Texas Commission on the Arts. So, it is a pretty competitive process to go through and to get selected as a Cultural District.”
Cultural Districts are recognized parts of a city that have programs and a high concentration of cultural facilities, which serve as an attraction. They also help strengthen the local economy and expand on the cultural aspect of the city. Adding a mural that represents a city’s past and present would highlight the culture of the area.
Norman and Neason were able to recruit University Title Company, City Bank & Mortgage Company, Surplus Warehouse, Woodson Lumber & Hardware, Paint Warehouse, We Rent It, American Momentum Bank, and ExtraCo Bank as sponsors. Their company, Renovation Wranglers, matched the monies donated by the sponsors.
On May 30, five artists were chosen to each paint one 25-foot-by-18-foot mural across the wall on West 31st Street. Each artist received a stipend, but provided their own paint and art supplies. The mural theme is celebrating the city’s past or present, showcasing commerce, culture, and community. Each mural is 25 feet wide and 18 feet tall and are the first public art that has gone up in Downtown Bryan in four years.
“Whether they drive by it or walk down or whatever it may be, it doesn’t really matter as long as they see it, know it, and seek it,” says Norman. “Our goal is to make sure that they know it’s there to seek it out.”
Tyler Kay, 24, grew up moving around Texas and spent time in both the city and the countryside. She is currently attending the University of Houston working on a master’s degree in art leadership and studying financial management of nonprofit organizations and art law.
She is the director of Bisong Art Gallery in downtown Houston, and runs her own business, Tyler Kay Designs. Through her business, Tyler Kay works on mural projects for dance studios, the University of Houston campus, gyms, and restaurants. She also does custom commission work.
Tyler Kay has been painting murals professionally for the past four years. She began with painting murals in the homes of her relatives. Four years ago, she painted her first large-scale mural at J-Dance Company in South Houston.
“I love doing large scale,” says Tyler Kay. “It’s interesting that other artists have told me that they can’t visualize to that scale, and for me I can just look at the wall and see the composition. I just really enjoy painting on this scale. I feel confined when I work on a canvas actually, because I just like going big.”
Tyler Kay describes her style as hyperrealism and says she loves to paint florals. For this mural project, Tyler Kay draws from her inspiration of Texas wildflowers and plans to paint various hyper-realistic Indian Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets. Overlaid will be a patterned and worn ribbon travelling horizontally across the wall with “Old Bryan” written on it. Going left to right, the ribbon will wrap around various flowers in the center and fade into a newer looking ribbon that depicts an image of current Bryan.
View Tyler Kay’s artwork and previous murals on Instagram @TylerKay or www.Tyler-Kay.com.