Build the W’ALL: East Austin artist wants to unite, not divide

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The idea came to Tim Wakefield during the 2016 presidential election.

“The subject of the wall came up,” he said. “It became quite a divisive thing that was separating people.”

A neon sign at Mosaic Sound Collective features the W’ALL Austin logo. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Walls, he explained, started getting a bad rap. He wanted to show the structures could be a force to unite, and so W’ALL Austin (think “y’all,” but “we all”) was born.

Construction of the w’all has started at the Mosaic Sound Collective, an affordable community for artists and musicians on F.M. 969 in east Austin. It’s a 16-foot-long series of wooden posts, each a different height, and each painted a different color.

Tuesday, Jonathan Maurel, a street artist and art director for W’ALL Austin, spray-painted the finishing touches onto each post in preparation for a private ribbon cutting Wednesday evening.

“It is making a statement,” he said.

Jonathan Maurel paints one of the posts in the w’all on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Each piece of the w’all is unique, he explained, but when they come together, they form something bigger and stronger than the individual pieces. “It’s being political without being political.”

The section is the first of what the creators hope will be dozens, if not more, eventually surrounding the perimeter of the the sprawling Mosaic property.

“One step at a time,” Maurel said. “That’s how you get somewhere.”

The mission

In order to move on to the next section, Wakefield wants to cover the existing posts in metal plaques, or “bricks,” inscribed with names and song lyrics.

For $50, he explained, donors can pay to put a customized brick in the wall. The money raised from the sales will go to various charities working for social justice and equality worldwide. When the first section is filled, they’ll build another 16 feet.

“We just want to see the w’all grow and grow,” he said. “My vision is to see it, you know, thousands of feet long.”

Jonathan Maurel paints the first section of the w’all on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

The w’all is an extension of Wakefield’s work with Soundwaves Art Foundation, a nonprofit that calls Mosaic home.

Soundwaves creates colorful canvases using the various wavelengths of famous songs, has the musicians sign them, then auctions off the results and donates the proceeds to other nonprofits.

Ray Benson signs a copy of a visualization of “Miles and Miles of Texas” at the Soundwaves Art Foundation studio on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Ray Benson, of Asleep at the Wheel fame, stopped by the space Tuesday to sign prints of a visualization of “Miles and Miles of Texas” for Soundwaves to sell.

Wakefield, who moved to Austin from the United Kingdom six years ago, appreciates the support he’s gotten from artists worldwide over the last decade making the prints, and he hopes to see the same enthusiasm for the new project.

“Music fans all over the world can buy a brick in the wall. It’s not just an Austin project, but we want it to be seen as coming out of Austin. We want Austin to show what a philanthropic town it is.”

W’ALL Austin is not about keeping people out, he said, but about creating a space in which everyone is welcome.

“I think we’ve got to a point,” he said, “a tipping point in the world now where we need to decide what kind of world we want to live in.”

Wednesday, W’ALL Austin will debut during a private ribbon-cutting. It will open to the public on Saturday during the East Austin Studio Tour and will feature musical performances.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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