The painters work to fill the 55-foot-high back wall of Waco Racecourse with a mural designed by Waco artist Brad Settles.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

The illuminated marquee at Waco Racecourse has long captured the attention of passers-by on Austin Avenue, but the back of the theater facing Franklin Avenue is starting to catch the eye.

The theater’s rear exterior wall serves as the canvas for a multi-story mural by artist Waco Brad Settles and already green leaves cascade down the wall as its design is completed with help from fellow artists Cory Lind and Mateo Cantu, with assistance from Naomi Canale.

Art exhibition - Brad sets up shop

Artist Waco Brad Settles, seen here in his 2020 exhibition “The Rough Draft Documents,” designed a mural for the back wall of Waco Racecourse.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald file photo

It is part of a larger Magnolia Network special, soon to be announced, with a national audience. Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano said details of the lineup had not been released but that the special would feature working artists from towns and villages across the country.

Magnolia Network programming is available to stream on Discovery + and the Magnolia mobile app. The network will expand to cable viewers on January 5 when it replaces the DIY Network. Cable TV subscribers who get the DIY Network as part of their programming package will receive the Magnolia Network instead starting next year.

A second large mural is also underway in downtown Waco with a new ArtPrenticeship team painting one on a wall at the Dr Pepper Museum facing Jackson Avenue. This mural, the seventh created by an ArtPrenticeship team in the past three years, is designed by fellow Waco artist Mick Burson. Burson’s previous Waco murals include a striking abstract design on the side of the old Hey Sugar candy store building on Austin Avenue, shipping containers outside Brotherwell Brewing, Brookview Hills Mall and the Yaki food truck.

The ArtPrenticeship program, run by Creative Waco, a nonprofit arts organization in Waco, strives to give local high school students a sense of the professional and business side of art through paid apprenticeships and collaborations with professional artists.

Past ArtPrenticeship projects have splashed color across downtown and East Waco, with murals at Brotherwell Brewing, Waco Family Medicine’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Clinic, The Cove, and TFNB Your Bank For Life.

ArtPrenticeship Program Director Stefanie Wheat-Johnson is overseeing the two mural projects, which are slated to end this month. Even with the considerable experience of seven previous wall projects, the current two offer new challenges.

downtown mural

The height of the wall added to the challenges of the mural.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

For the Hippodrome mural, this is the 55-foot height of the back wall, requiring an elevator with an arrow high enough for performers to reach the top of the wall. For the Dr Pepper Museum mural, this is the overall area, with the 2,600 square feet to cover.

When complete, downtown Waco will have new and varied designs for visitors and residents of the city, said Wheat-Johnson. The mural at the Dr Pepper Museum in Burson will use bright, vivid colors in an abstract nod to advertising art, examples of which can be found in the museum’s exhibits and collections.

The Settles Racecourse wall design uses the interconnecting natural greenery of Cameron Park as a metaphor for Waco, said Wheat-Johnson.

“I think it will be a very special gift for Waco and a gift from the whole team that works there,” she said.

downtown mural

Encrypted letters tell painters how to fill in the mural being painted at the Waco Racecourse Theater.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald