“ Rhapsody” is a colorful ceramic tile mosaic mural located in East Austin.
What everyone knows
Its gorgeous and colorful mosaic tiles of combine to create an animated tribute to East Austin’s musical past.
What they don't tell you
Yancey turned a former East Austin church property into his home and art studio. He purchased a 1950’s home from Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church, which had used it as the pastor's house. The property came with two other homes. After buying the three-house site, Yancey, the John D. Murchison Professor in Art at the University of Texas, began the work of honoring and restoring a piece of East Austin history. The two houses of the studio are filled with examples of his work, which reflect on cultural and racial identity as well as his experiences.
Do it like a local
Yancey’s “Rhapsody” mural is a must see! It commemorates East Austin’s musical and cultural history. After viewing the mosaic masterpiece, I recommend you walk next door and checkout the Texas Music Museum. It is a treasury containing a unique historical collection that tells the story of the musicians who made Austin the Live Music Capital of the World!
For the History Buffs
If you love all forms of art, like I do, then John Yancey's mosaic mural - simply titled “Rhapsody” - will also inspire, energize, and evoke emotional responses in you, too.
University of Texas at Austin’s John Yancey is more than a professor. He is a very talented artist, and received his BFA degree in painting and drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1980. His work focuses in three main areas: paintings and drawings; community-based mural painting; and ceramic tile mosaic public art works.
In conjunction with master artisan Luis G. Alicea and artist Stephen B. Jones, Yancey designed the 50-foot-long mosaic mural, Rhapsody. The piece was installed in Urdy Plaza in October 2004, just a couple blocks away from the cathedral of barbecue, Franklin’s, in East Austin.
East Austin is known for its Blues & Jazz roots, and for its African-American music history. Many famous African American acts such as B.B. King, W.C. Clark, Chuck Berry, Etta James and Billie Holliday performed at the historic Victory Grill - so named because it opened on the day Japan surrendered in World War II — was intended as a place where returning black soldiers, as well as locals, could enjoy the nightlife of segregated Austin. It is also the first African American owned live music venue in Texas. Which used to be located across 11th St. from Urdy Plaza, named after Dr. Charles E. Urdy, a respected community leader.
Funded by the Austin Revitalization Authority (ARA) as part of a project called "Eleven East", Yancey’s mosaic mural pays homage to the longstanding African American institutions and community buildings of East 11th Street, which once upon a time was Austin's jazz and blues mecca.
The mural is divided into two sections of irregularly shaped cement walls which were created specifically for the project.
Its colorful mosaic tiles combine to create an animated tribute to commemorate a time when blues and jazz music filtered through the east side of segregated Austin.
Yancey, a longtime local resident, searched through old photos and documents to help inform his design. When he makes a mural, he first makes a scale drawing of it, and then puts the mural together one section at a time. He cuts each piece of ceramic tile, then places it. The pieces are temporarily kept together using contact paper. He then transforms the sections of tiles to the site and installs them with mortar, which takes about a month.
You might be familiar with Yancey’s other beautiful mosaic creations at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, in San Antonio. more deets here
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