TX Silo Mural Project Nears Completion


A mural in McKinney, Texas, is nearing completion as part of a revitalization project, covering eight concrete silos and a grain elevator with the artwork. The McKinney mural, which does not have an official title yet, is one of the largest works in North Texas and will serve as the backdrop for the city’s new Municipal Community Complex.

Project Background

The McKinney Silos Mural Project spans across eight 100-foot-tall historic concrete silos and a grain elevator in McKinney off of East and Virginia Main Streets, in an area that once was an industrial center. The mural is one element of a revitalization project taking place east of State Highway 5, hoping to attract visitors and drive economic vitality.

Earlier this year, in February, the city of McKinney announced that a contract had been signed with Australian artist Guido van Helten to transform the silos into a public art piece. The artist is reportedly known for his work with silos around the world with oversized photorealism murals.

He also paints with high-quality pigment paints in neutral colors chosen specifically to blend with the surface and bring out the existing industrial architecture of the structures. This reportedly ensures the artwork will weather well and complement the structure itself.

The McKinney silos will contribute to van Helten’s U.S. silo series, “Monuments,” which feature other public art installations in Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas and Arkansas. His most recent mural was completed in October of last year in Salina, Kansas, inspired by his visit to a local after school program.

Following the signing of the contract, van Helten spent the next several months taking more than 5,000 photos, interacting with residents in neighborhoods surrounding the area and visiting local businesses. He told reporters that he used that time to immerse himself in the city and guide his vision for the mural.

“It's so loud and so big that I really want to earn [the] trust of people locally before I just go and dive in there [and] start painting,” van Helten said.

The city also conducted a survey from January to March to help collect public input on what the mural should be and how it should accurately represent the city’s identity. The responses shared common themes, including:

  • Preserve the past and welcome progress;
  • We are unified in our diversity;
  • The struggles of growth, but together we are better;
  • Honor the “message” of respect, kindness, preservation, growth; and
  • Embrace the past thoroughly, face the future bravely.

Settling on the theme of “community,” van Helten got to work designing a mural depicting several McKinney residents at a town celebrating Juneteenth. One prominent figure is a young African American woman, looking over her shoulder.

In July, van Helten began work on the mural. The McKinney Courier-Gazette reported that it was not unheard of for the artist to start work at 5 a.m. or work until 9 p.m. some days.

“This has been an incredible experience and opportunity for the city of McKinney,” said Assistant City Manager Kim Flom. “I think one of the things that’s most powerful for us is the process that Guido uses to kind of share the story of the soul of a community.”

The project is reportedly funded through grants, private donations, the McKinney Public Art Fund and the city’s hotel occupancy tax.

What’s Next

At the end of last month, a ribbon cutting event was held to celebrate its near completion.

“In a world where places tend to start looking like each other, places with strong public art expressions give communities a stronger sense of identity and celebrate the qualities that make one place different from another,” said McKinney Mayor George Fuller at the ceremony.

The mural is anticipated to be completed sometime in September, pending weather-related delays. Additionally, van Helten said he will wait for a “reflective moment” once the piece is finished to make a decision on title.

“Sometimes I don't even give them titles because I feel like the place is an identifier enough for that project,” van Helten said.

As for the Community Complex, city officials plan to break ground this fall. The city reports that this public art project “demonstrates one of the city’s goals for the new development: to preserve and celebrate the culture of the communities in the area.”

“We hope that [the silo mural] spurs on multiple future ... large-scale art projects throughout downtown, and we're excited to see this as the beginning of larger investment in public art,” Andrew Jones, interim director of McKinney Main Street and the McKinney Performing Arts Center, said.

Other Recent Silo Murals

Also reportedly nearing completion, a mural in Toledo, Ohio, is set to be the largest of its kind in the United States once finished. The project, named the Glass City River Wall, encompasses the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) concrete grain silos in Toledo, east of I-75 along the Maumee River. 82,365 cars reportedly pass by the location every day, equating to over 30 million views per year.

The mural wraps around 28 concrete grain silos total. According to reports, the project will require about 5,000 gallons of paint.

Featuring artist Gabe Gault’s signature use of flora and fauna, 25 silos on the mural include wild sunflowers, or Sun Chokes. Symbolically, the sunflowers represent hope, faith and good fortune, while historically it was one of the key crops for indigenous people of the region. This portion of the mural is completed.

Portraits on the last three silos—representing the significance of the Native American women and children who planted and maintained the corn fields that historically lined the banks of the Maumee river from Toledo to Fort Wayne, Indiana—are depictive of The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, The Shawnee Tribe, and Lakota Tribe.

Each of the models is reportedly a citizen of a Tribal Nation today. The portraits are depicted wearing jewelry common to the groups both in the past and present, with the mix of modern-day clothing and this jewelry demonstrating “that these people represent living communities, each with connections to their community’s history and ancestors.”

Tnemec Company, Inc. products were chosen for the project, due to its investment in developing innovative technologies for coating projects that require extra protection against environmental elements. Both Tnemec products being used are low VOC and water-based, reportedly making them easier to apply while still showcasing excellent performance.

Tnemec has also provided the Glass City River wall teams with technical and customer support throughout the project stages.


Tagged categories: Artists; Coating Application; Color + Design; concrete; Contracts; Historic Structures; Murals; Murals; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management

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