Creative collective SprATX helps street artists interact with community

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In a small back office of SprATX, artists armed with sketch pads discuss “Super Mario Brothers”-themed pipes and a life-sized “Hungry Hungry Hippos” game as they plan interactive pieces for this year’s upcoming music festivals.

Located in East Austin, UT alumna Molly Maroney and local street artist Mouf founded SprATX in 2013. Since then, the gallery, retail store and artist collective has worked to connect artists and their community with clients in order to showcase their work.

“I find it more fulfilling to help other artists achieve their goals,” Maroney said. “I feel more confident with commercial art professionally rather than pushing my own personal style.”

When Maroney first moved to Austin in 2008, she said the street art scene at the time was vastly different.

“The ‘Hi, How Are You’ and ‘Welcome to Austin’ murals were the only really iconic murals,” Maroney said. “Now you see works by artists such as Jason Eatherly or G52 Cube that have a lot of recognition.”  

Mouf said this recognition can be seen in the requests of clients who come to SprATX looking for an artist to paint a mural or design a logo.

“When we first started, most people would ask us to recommend an artist for a project,” Mouf said “And now, people are starting to ask by name a lot more.”

In recent years, Mouf said the festivals have increasingly reached out to SprATX, requesting interactive pieces, such as a multi-tiered platform that artists painted on during last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest.

“At a festival, anything can happen,” Mouf said. “You have to think about all the risks that the situation provides. It’s not a closed environment like a party where you can ask people not to touch the artwork.”

Local artist Mike Johnston, who signs his work under the moniker “Truth,” said he has benefitted from opportunities provided by SprATX. He has had the chance to paint the course at X Games, live paint at Fun Fun Fun Fest and will have an exhibition opening at Austin Art Garage on July 9.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do those things on my own,” Johnston said. “I’m grateful for the exposure and opportunities I’ve gotten through them. For me, it’s been cool to see how many artists have been able to move from having side jobs to being able to do this full time.”

In addition to their art, members of SprATX participate in various charity work, visiting local schools to educate art classes on street art and graffiti.

“The schools will generally call us and tell us what they want us to talk about,” Mouf said. “We talk about the history and different styles of graffiti as well as sometimes teaching basic techniques, like lettering and showing the kids how to write their name.”

Later this year, the SprATX co-founders plan to move to a new location that boasts a larger gallery space, retail section, meeting room, offices and warehouse shop for projects to be built. Mouf said the new space will not only benefit SprATX, but also the artists.

“We’re hoping to do more gallery style hanging and to push the artists to do more work at a level and style that is gallery ready,” Mouf said.

Although SprATX functions as a business, its members said they find greater importance in it as an art community.

“From housewarmings to birthday parties, these people are there,” Johnston said. “Not only that brotherhood, but they always push me when I see what they’re doing. It pushes me to want to do more as well as allows me to learn new techniques.”