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Map Your Roots
2921 E. 17th St., Building B
Artist: Creative Action’s Color Squad
Location: (The back of) The Center for Creative Action, 2921 E. 17th St., Building B
Map Your Roots, designed and created by Creative Action’s Color Squad group in 2015, tells the story of the Chestnut neighborhood where the Center for Creative Action resides, through the use of symbolism. After a thorough period of research and community engagement, Color Squad teens used what they had learned to design the large scale, color mural on the back of the center facing the Sustainable Food Center Garden.
The foundation of the mural is three hands used to represent the three periods depicted in the work. The hands on the left cradle dirt (like that in the nearby garden), and stand in for the time before the 1960s when the neighborhood was largely agricultural.
Directly below the farming hands, are goats that represent the Meyers goat farm, a part of the area’s agricultural history that sat where Flatbed Press and Austin’s Christopher House site currently. The farm, and a log cabin that was a part of it and is also depicted in the mural, were still in operation throughout the 1960s according to local lore.
The next hand, located in the middle of the mural and balled into a fist, represents both the civil rights movement and neighborhood resistance to industrial environmental contamination in the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, the Chestnut neighborhood was home to the Featherlite cement factory which left a thin layer of cement dust on cars and clothesline directly across the street. That dust is symbolized the pink clouds at the top of the Map Your Roots mural with the factory itself painted just below. Three community activists — Ethel Fresch, Robert Humphries Jr., and Ida Manor — who helped remove the factory, and the pollution it brought, from the neighborhood also have a place on the mural to the left of the pink clouds.
Next to the factory, in line with a tall building that represents the ongoing period of growth in Austin, is a mouth that represents the arrival of Creative Action in the community. The mouth symbolizes youth voice, which Creative Action engages to help address community concerns. And above the mouth and to the right of the tall building is the Metrorail train that the Chestnut Neighborhood Planning Team conceived of the improve the neighborhood’s access to public transportation.
Finally, the final hand at the top, right hand side of the building throws an airplane toward the right, representing Creative Action’s hope for the area’s future, as well as the uncertainty of what lies ahead.