Shining a Spotlight on Local Artists for Black History Month

The theme for this year’s Black History month is African Americans and the arts, celebrating the many prolific voices of Black artists in the United States, from visual and performing arts, to literature, fashion, music and beyond. It’s fitting that CapMetro’s bus wrap for Black History month pays tribute to our very own local Black artists in a grand and impressive mobile display of spectacular color and design. 

Made in partnership with Mas Cultura, these bus wraps uplift and empower local talent, while also shining a spotlight on the many diverse cultures of the Central Texas community. Our latest design for Black History Month comes from visual artist and muralist Sadé Lawson.  

Sadé, who was featured in the 2023 PBS documentary episode Muraling Austin: Women Rising, is a visual artist who has already made a name for herself in mural design throughout Central Texas. She explains that she’s driven to large-scale public works like murals because of the opportunity to not only beautify a community but to also educate people. 

“Not only do I get to empower myself as an artist by making the work, but I also empower others by having that impact on the community.” 

With help from Mas Cultura, Lawson held a discussion with locals in East Austin to ask about Black artists in Central Texas whose works have had a meaningful significance to the community. “I spoke to them and told them about what we’re doing and how their voices can have an impact on a piece of work that is going to go around town,” Lawson said. 

After these conversations, Sadé went to work on researching the suggested artists and placing them together in a thoughtful and striking design. The bold and colorful moving mural truly centers the artists who are featured on the bus. Lawson said that while designing, she had to keep the scope and scale of the piece in mind to tie the subjects together in a cohesive way that flows. She explained: “The composition and colors needed to complement one another without being washed out. I wanted it to be eye catching.” 

On one side of the bus are artists Chris Rogers, Dawn Okoro, Mama Duke and Dr. James Polk. Chris Rogers is a muralist whose profound work can be seen throughout the Austin area from the Eastside to Q2 Stadium. Dawn Okoro is a multidisciplinary artist, including photography, videography and other visual arts that have been featured in Harper’s Bazaar and Architectural Digest, among others. Mama Duke is an award-winning recording artist who has won Austin’s “Artist of the Year” and “Female Artist of the Year.” Dr. James Polk is a jazz musician who formed one of the first integrated bands in Austin, played with the Ray Charles Orchestra and has been inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame. 

On the other side of the bus is Susan McFayden, Brian ‘Sam’ Mays and Jonathan ‘Chaka’ Mahone. Suzanne McFayden is a writer, collector and patron of modern and contemporary art and board chair at the Blanton Museum of Art. Sam Mays is proud owner of Sam’s BBQ in East Austin, which has been in his family since 1957. Chaka is a storyteller through visual arts, songwriting, music production and events, among other mediums, and a leader for advocacy work throughout the Central Texas community. 

Lawson explained that large scale work like this design and her other murals “…allows you this grace to be a bit more focused on the subject matter itself […] the thing about public art is that people are not going to just be standing a foot or two in front of it trying to see all the little things you did. So, I don’t have to hyper-fixate on all the details. It’s more forgiving, which I love, but I also got to blow up the images so the subjects themselves on the bus are really the focal points.” 

Photo of artist Sadé Lawson holding a microphone and speaking in front of a podium inside.

The bus wrap design was celebrated in a ceremonial unveiling on February 7, where the featured artists and members of the community came out to honor the artists and take a moment to truly recognize the impact of their work and Lawson’s design. Lawson had this to say about what she wants people to feel when they see her designs on the bus as it travels around Central Texas:  

“I would love for there to be a sense of pride, first, from the Black community to see themselves and members of the community being represented. Also, I’d love for there to be a sense of wonder and curiosity. I know there will be people who view it and say ‘I don’t know who that is’ but maybe it will allow them to take a step after that and do their own research to find out about a lot of really cool influential Black Austinites that are here in the city.” 

Photo of colorful bus parked outside on a cloudy day. The bus wrap design shows portraits of Chaka, Suzanne McFayden, and Sam Mays.