New east Fort Worth mural gives Black businesses a chance to be seen
Artist Armando Castelan was up on an orange scaffolding using a paintbrush for hours on end.
With each stroke of his brush, Castelan’s vision comes into shape: a mural honoring Black business in Fort Worth. The artwork is on the east-facing wall of Community Frontline’s headquarters, 2800 Yeager St. The mural is expected to be completed ahead of the start of Black Heritage Month in February.
Community Frontline commissioned the mural. Dante Williams, a founder of the nonprofit, wanted to show Fort Worth the rich history of Black businesses and their impact on Fort Worth — a history he learned later in life. Growing up, he was aware of only one Black business – John Carter’s Place, a soul food restaurant.
“The mural started with having conversations with business owners, people that have just been around for a while,” Williams said. “At the heart of it was really just trying to highlight and show people there’s been an impact in this city.”
The mural has been in the works since 2019. The idea started with a conversation on how to highlight to Black businesses in Fort Worth and to give a space for Black business owners within the city to be seen, Williams said.
“If we look at small businesses, they are the backbone of our city and of our nation,” Williams said.
The artwork will highlight Black businesses and leaders of the past and present, such as Amanda Davis, the first Black person to buy property in 1886, and businesses like Black Coffee and Little John’s Barbecue. The silhouettes of CommUnity Frontline founders also will be a part of the mural.
Once the mural is finished, Williams expects it will be a place where the community can see and embrace its history.
Castelan got involved after he saw Community Frontline fundraising for the mural on social media. He saw it as an opportunity to do something great for the organization while showcasing what he can do, he said.
“I’m just excited to be a part of this project because I’m big on giving back to the community; hopefully, people like it,” Castelan said.
Castelan paints murals full time, and his work is commissioned across Texas.
Originally from Mexico, Castelan moved to the U.S. as a child. In 1992, his family moved to Houston. He has about a decade of experience painting murals but is also skilled in canvas painting, digital illustrations, and Photoshop.
Since moving to Fort Worth last year, Castelan was part of a Sundance Square artist residency program. His mural of hearts — an anatomically correct organ inside a shape of one — is on Grove Street downtown.
While Community Frontline knew who it wanted to highlight on the wall, Castelan’s job was to come up with the design. Most of the pictures used for the piece were from second-hand sources, but the three interlocked arms was a photo that Castelan took.
“The design process took a few weeks,” Castelan said. “It was just getting to a design that complemented the space and coming up with some color scheme that also would look good.”
Castelan was taught to finish a mural as fast as possible. But, at 43, he slowed down.
That slower pace has allowed people in the communities where he has painted to appreciate using his brushes to create art.
“They feel like they’re a part of the project and the experience,” Castelan said.
The residents of Park Meadows Apartments next to Community Frontline got to know Castelan on a first-name basis, and some would even show him their own artwork.
Williams has seen people stop and look at the mural. He said that has given his organization a chance to talk to the neighborhood about Community Frontline’s goals.
“So far, it’s taking people to a place that I don’t think they’ve been in a long time,” Williams said.
Francelia Williams’ business, DFW Beauty Studio, is in the same building as CommUnity Frontline. She thinks the mural will be a nice addition to her neighborhood.
Community Frontline plans to have an event to reveal the mural once it is finished. The organization plans to do another mural — this time highlighting Hispanic business and culture.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or onTwitter.