If you’ve driven around the Fort Worth lately, you may have noticed some colorful additions. From Hemphill in the Southside to Downtown and the Stockyards, the murals of Fort Worth artist Juan Velázquez are adorning the cityscape.
A Texas native, Velázquez has lived in Fort Worth for twenty-two years. Always attracted to the arts and drawing, he learned how to paint in high school, later taking art classes at TCC, but did not pursue art as a career until later in life.
“When my daughter was born, l realized that life is short,” said Velázquez. “I couldn’t tell my daughter to follow her dreams if I didn’t follow mine.”
Velázquez gained city-wide attention for his downtown mural honoring Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen.
“I wanted her family to know we care,” said Velázquez. “I saw a lot of hate on social media and I wanted to do something centered around love and unity. That’s one of the beautiful things about doing a mural because it’s outside, you can keep distance. It’s one of the few things we can still do together right now.”
"Fort Worth for Vanessa" won "Best Mural" from the Fort Worth Weekly's Best of 2020 awards. Velázquez was already creating art centered around social justice and had created other public murals such as the “Black is Beautiful” and “Love” murals in Dallas, and the “BLM” and “Amari Malone” murals off of Evans Avenue in Fort Worth. He has also created other walls celebrating Mexican-American culture such as the “Selena” and “Aztec” murals.
“I’m darker,” said Velázquez, “and when I go to a museum I don’t see people who look like me [in the paintings]. I want all races to have art they can relate to. All races are beautiful.”
While experienced in painting, Velázquez only recently began painting murals, which may come as a surprise given the lifelike quality and range of styles the artist has accomplished. These open-air mural sessions have served exactly the purpose that Velázquez intended, bringing people together and brightening up the city with public art for everyone. In addition to bringing by-standers, several of the murals were completed with the help of other local artists including Sarah Ayala and Brianna Ortiz, among others.
In a year as challenging as 2020, art has helped us cope with its difficulties and embrace its challenges. From film and written works to photos and paintings, Fort Worth artists like Juan Velázquez have both brought our attention to important issues and brought happiness to our lives. Velázquez reminds us of the positive impact that art can have on the community, and the importance of its presence in public spaces.
Velázquez is planning an art show for the end of the year showcasing Fort Worth landscapes at Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts. Be sure to follow Juan Velázquez on Instagram @velazquez_art_. If you want to hop in the car and visit all the murals, Velázquez created a Google Map you can follow here. He also has a clothing brand called Fort Worth Merch.