New mural in east Fort Worth gives black businesses a chance to get noticed

Artist Armando Castellan sat for hours on orange scaffolding and painted with a brush.

With every stroke of his brush, Castellan’s vision takes shape: a black business mural in Fort Worth. The artwork is on the east wall of the Community Frontline headquarters, 2800 Yeager St. The mural is expected to be completed before the start of Black Heritage Month in February.

The Frontline community commissioned the mural. Dante Williams, the founder of the nonprofit, wanted to show Fort Worth the rich history of black businesses and their impact on Fort Worth, a story he learned later in life. As a child, he knew of only one black business, John Carter’s Place, a soul food restaurant.

“The mural began with conversations with business owners, people who have just emerged,” Williams said. “At the heart of it was really an attempt to highlight and show people that there is influence in this city.”

The mural has been under construction since 2019. The idea began with a conversation about how to reach out to black businesses in Fort Worth and provide space for black business owners in the city, Williams said.

“If we look at small businesses, we see that they are the backbone of our city and our country,” Williams said.

The artwork will focus on black businesses and leaders past and present such as Amanda Davis, the first black person to buy property in 1886, as well as businesses such as Black Coffee and Little John’s Barbecue. Silhouettes of the founders of CommUnity Frontline will also be part of the mural.

Once the mural is finished, Williams expects it to be a place where the community can see and embrace its history.

Castellan got involved after seeing a Community Frontline fundraiser for the mural on social media. According to him, he saw this as an opportunity to do something important for the organization, while demonstrating what he was capable of.

“I’m just happy to be a part of this project because I really want to give back to the community; I hope people like it,” Castellan said.

Castellan is constantly painting murals, and his work is commissioned throughout Texas.

Originally from Mexico, Castellan moved to the United States as a child. In 1992, his family moved to Houston. He has about ten years of murals painting experience but is also well versed in canvas painting, digital illustration and Photoshop.

Since moving to Fort Worth last year, Castellan has participated in the Sundance Square artist residency program. His fresco of hearts – an anatomically correct organ inside the shape of one of them – is located on Grove Street in the city center.

While Community Frontline knew who she wanted to highlight on the wall, Castellan’s job was to come up with the design. Most of the photographs used for the article were second hand, but the three clasped hands were a photograph taken by Castellan.

“The design process took several weeks,” Castellan said. “I just had to come up with a design that complemented the space and come up with a color scheme that also looked good.”

The castellan was taught to finish a fresco as quickly as possible. But at 43, he slowed down.

This slower pace allowed people in the communities where he painted to appreciate the use of his brushes to create art.

“They feel they are part of the project and the experience,” Castellan said.

Residents of the Park Meadows Apartments near the Community Frontline recognized Castellan by name, and some even showed him their work.

Williams saw people stop and look at the mural. He said it gave his organization an opportunity to talk to neighbors about Community Frontline goals.

“So far, it brings people to a place where I think they haven’t 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 would be a nice addition to her neighborhood.

Community Frontline is planning an event to show the mural once it’s finished. The organization plans to make another mural, this time dedicated to Latin American business and culture.

Juan Salinas II is a Fort Worth Report Fellow. Contact him at [email protected] or call Twitter.

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