Sage & Sonder – New Flower Mural at Willa

Artist Ruben Esquivel already made a splash at Willa with his beautiful murals of Texas’s popular animals and his first work with us, Seeds of Change. We were excited to get him back for a new project for Willa’s interior – a showcase of native Texas flowers blooming around the Willa logo, with several prominent honeybees doing their all-important pollination work.

Esquivel’s original plan was for a more two dimensional mural – closer to the designs he’d used for Willa’s animals. But he knew that working inside on such a big project would make using spray paint difficult and he made the decision to shift to all brushwork. Suddenly the project took on several new dimensions. This wasn’t something that could be done over a long weekend, so Esquivel set up shop in the lobby and worked while residents came and went.

Residents were immediately charmed (naturally), but also felt deep ownership and interest in the project. They’d stop to chat and ask questions. It became the highlight of a lot of people’s day to come check in on the artist and the art.

The mural’s flowers are Indian Blanket, Mexican Hat, Bluebonnet, Texas sage, and Cardinal flower, and they also happen to be some of the artist’s favorite colors. Working with these vibrant shades for such a long time put him in a new place creatively. He was ready to try more detail in the brushwork on the bee, or in the pistil or stamen on a blossom. And when a resident asked if the artist could add a ladybug, Esquivel thought, why not? This was a community project and it had come to belong to everyone at Willa.

“I love hearing firsthand accounts of how it affects the residents,” he says. Having now met almost everyone in the building and chatted over 300 work-hours of painting, he’s made unexpected friends – sharing dinners, parties, and talk.

A resident lost a loved one and took a minute to chat about it with Esquivel, who was grieving the sudden loss of his father as he painted. It was a moment he’ll never forget. The flowers took on a whole new meaning when he finished – rich and vital, beautiful and temporary This piece was more personal than he’d ever expected.

We’re all thrilled at how it turned out. We hope it will give joy and a real sense of place at Willa for years to come.

StoryBuilt is pleased to make a donation to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in honor of the memory of Ruben Garza Esquivel, the artist’s late father, and to The Bee Conservancy #savethebees

Note from Ruben Esquivel: Special thanks to Dalia Gutierrez (@dollfacekillaaa) for all her hard work and help getting this work up on the wall. Thanks also to the other artists who came out to help: @inkcolor @vivalapainter @alfredo_dasifuentes @ladyleon_febe.

Videographer: @naedaze
Ruben Esquivel: @eastendeclectic