The guys from Wacotown are at it again.
A year ago, they turned heads by painting the side of a two-story downtown building with the words “Wacotown/Oh so special,” next to a giant bear in a Heisman pose. City inspectors stopped the work briefly, suspecting it was an unpermitted new business.
It turned out to be a “feel-good civic art project” by a collective of Waco artists, meant to inspire pride in their town and in Baylor’s thrilling football season led by quarterback Robert Griffin III.
This week, they’re back at the same building at South Fourth Street and Mary Avenue, preparing to paint the letters “12” next to the bear, in huge, artistic script.
That’s the number of months left until Baylor Stadium opens on the Brazos River.
Each month, a different local graphic designer will contribute a new number for the countdown to the stadium opening.
“This is just a way to say something different is happening in Waco,” said Mike Trozzo, a graphic designer who is the unofficial leader of the unofficial group. “We really want people to be excited about where they live.”
The project got a boost this week when the city’s downtown Public Improvement District advisory board recommended a contribution of $4,400 to the project. The district oversees a fund supported by a 10-cent-per-$100 tax assessment on downtown property owners.
Trozzo, who co-owns a graphic design business and a mobile laundry service that operates at several colleges, funded most of the original green-and-gold mural with his own money and will contribute to this one, too.
Trozzo, 36, is a 1999 graduate of Baylor University. After a decade in California, he moved back here in 2010 when his wife decided to pursue a doctorate in New Testament studies at Baylor.
He said he came to appreciate Waco even as an undergraduate, once he looked past its lack of big-city amenities and got to know the city’s “wonderful people.” A T-shirt logo he designed sums up his concept of living here: “Wacotown loves you.”
“You don’t have to love it, but it loves you,” he said.
Chris McGowan, director of urban development for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said Trozzo is among a new generation of creative professionals who are bullish on Waco.
“He’s proud of Waco and likes this place,” he said. “We need more beautiful things in downtown Waco, more interesting things, and he’s certainly doing that. The Wacotown mural has become an icon for downtown. Tons of people take photos of it. It shows up on Instagram and Twitter all the time.”
For the new painting, Trozzo hired local sign artist Mark Cunningham, who painted the first mural.
Cunningham again will be using electronic “vector” files that can be blown up infinitely without loss of resolution. Parts of the sign are printed out on paper with a perforated outline of the letters, allowing the painter to create a chalk outline on the wall.
Trozzo used a retro-looking cursive script for the Wacotown logo, along with a shade of green intended to look weathered. The new graphics will be set against a white background.
Trozzo said he’d love to paint some more buildings in downtown to keep the buzz going. And he’s encouraging other artists and graphic designers to join him in creating public art.
“It’s really more a spirit than a movement,” he said.