Artist Armando Castelan spent hours on the orange scaffolding using a brush.
With each stroke of his brush, Castelano’s vision takes shape: a mural honoring black business 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 Black Heritage Month begins in February.
Community Frontline commissioned the mural. Dante Williams, the nonprofit’s founder, 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 conversations with business owners, people who have only been there for a while,” Williams said. “At the heart of it all was really just trying to highlight and show people that there is an impact on this city.”
The mural has been in the works since 2019. The idea started with a conversation about how to highlight black businesses in Fort Worth and give black business owners within the city a space to be seen, Williams said.
“If we look at small businesses, they are the backbone of our city and our nation,” Williams said.
The artwork will highlight black businesses and leaders past and present, such as Amanda Davis, the first black person to purchase real estate in 1886, and businesses such as Black Coffee and Little John’s Barbecue. Silhouettes of CommUnity Frontline founders will also be part of the mural.
When the mural is finished, Williams expects it will be a place where the community can see and embrace its history.
Castelan got involved after seeing Community Frontline fundraising for the mural on social media. He saw it as an opportunity to do something big for the organization while showing what he could do, he said.
“I’m excited to be a part of this project because I’m big on giving back to the community; we hope people like it,” Castelan said.
Castelan paints murals full-time, and his work is commissioned all over Texas.
Originally from Mexico, Castelan moved to the US as a child. In 1992, his family moved to Houston. He has approximately a decade of mural painting experience, but is also skilled in canvas painting, digital illustration, and Photoshop.
Since moving to Fort Worth last year, Castelan has been part of Sundance Square’s artist residency program. His mural of the heart – an anatomically correct organ in the shape of one – is located on Grove Street in the city centre.
While Community Frontline knew who they wanted to feature on the wall, it was Castelano’s job to come up with the design. Most of the images used for the work come from second-hand sources, but Castelan took photos with three intertwined hands.
“The design process took several weeks,” Castelan said. “It was just about coming up with a design that complimented the space and coming up with a color scheme that also looked good.”
Castelan was taught to finish the mural as quickly as possible. But at the age of 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 like they’re part of the project and the experience,” Castelan said.
Residents of the Park Meadows Apartments next to Community Frontline knew Castelano by name, and some would even show him their own artwork.
Williams saw people stop and look at the mural. He said it gave his organization a chance to talk to the neighborhood about Community Frontline’s goals.
“So far he’s taken people to places I don’t think they’ve been in a long time,” Williams said.
Francelie Williams’ business, DFW Beauty Studio, is located in the same building as CommUnity Frontline. She thinks the mural will be a nice addition to her neighborhood.
Community Frontline plans to hold an event to unveil the mural once it’s finished. The organization plans to create another mural — this time highlighting Hispanic American activity and culture.
Juan Salinas II is a reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at [email protected] or at Twitter.