After earning her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Arlington, Katie Murray went to work as a graphic designer. Yet, sitting in front of a computer all day, she found herself dreaming of her true love: fine art and painting. To turn that dream into reality, she went back to school for a master’s in painting from Texas Woman’s University.
“After graduating with my master’s, I had my first child and took some time off,” Murray said. “I wanted to get back into art, but I didn’t know how!”
Her answer came when a position opened for an adjunct professor at the Tarrant County College Northeast Campus. After teaching her first design class, Murray was hooked and continued teaching one class per semester. She now teaches at the Northwest Campus.
Busy with teaching and family, however, Murray was not creating art of her own. That quickly changed when her friends from Texas Christian University opened their own commercial real estate company, M2G Ventures, whose mission is to bring public art to the community through real estate. M2G reached out to Murray to collaborate on unconventional and inspiring public works of art on commercial buildings around Fort Worth. Each mural sets their buildings apart from other properties and puts their stamp on the community.
“We believe projects are a reflection of not only the art that is on them, or the building that you’re redeveloping, but the community it’s for, and we believe art is one of the most important pieces in creating a brand,” said Natalie Pedigo, M2G Ventures marketing manager.
Katie has an incredible ability to create thought-provoking art that everyone can identify with. She is the only person we ever would have considered!
The local recognition of Murray’s urban murals exceeded her dreams. “It’s crazy! I never expected it,” Murray stated. “I didn’t even tag myself in the first mural until later on, so I was kind of anonymous for a little while.” Today, Murray is anything but anonymous. When Fort Worth Business CEO Magazine came out featuring Murray’s public work, she finally felt established as a Fort Worth artist.
“When the CEO Magazine article came out, I felt really proud. I’m from Plano originally, but I finally felt like a part of the arts community in Fort Worth—which is what I’ve been trying to do since moving here,” Murray said. “It was such an honor. It’s something you dream about when graduating but don’t know how to get there!”
Murals became the majority of her art. Located at The Crossing on Camp Bowie Blvd. (5702 Locke St.), her first outdoor mural is titled “Dream on Dreamer.” With the idea of dreaming being abstract, the mural features an abstract sunset behind a female face.
The collaboration evolved into the “Dreamer Series,” spreading the message to dream and dream big. The series continued at 200 Carroll St. with “Don’t Quit Your Daydream,” featuring a community coexisting in various walks of life. The series concluded with “Follow Your Dreams,” an interactive mural on the side of 1305 W. Magnolia. The Magnolia Ave. wall was later covered in dreams the community submitted during local events like ArtsGoggle, on social media and by writing on a chalkboard stationed at the mural.
With portraits as Murray’s specialty, the Dreamer Series features figurative female dreamers. She appreciates the artistic freedom and trust given to her by M2G Ventures. Murray has worked on additional murals for Cowtown Marathon and Girls Inc. Her most recent project was a mural at the Thomas Place Community Center.
Murray likes to explore new endeavors, so between painting murals and portraits, she opened a contemporary gallery called Art Room. The art space features mid-career artists in the Dallas/ Fort Worth community and adds to the culture that is continually growing in Fort Worth.
“Dallas has a big arts community and that’s where people think the art is, but we’re bringing that to Fort Worth,” Murray said.
There are great artists here that have been underrepresented, but opportunities are here now. Sustainable, fun, exciting…that’s where art is going in Fort Worth!
Pedigo agreed. “Fort Worth has always had a strong art following. However, I don’t think it was as prevalent as it is today. We believe millennials are more focused on art and culture in their everyday lives, not only a trip to the art museum,” she said.
Murray teaches her TCC students how important art is to the community. Her goal each semester is to get students to consider “why” artists create and to appreciate and understand the artistic process.
“I have taught at other schools and TCC students are just more motivated and willing to do the work—they really want to learn,” Murray explained. “They are absorbing everything that I say and they try very hard. That”s what I love about teaching at TCC.”
Murray enjoys teaching art appreciation classes because the students are not necessarily artists, with many having minimal appreciation or understanding of the arts. She has the opportunity to introduce students to the importance of artists and their work.
Art appreciation classes are traditionally taught in lecture format for non-art majors, but Murray and her fellow instructors at the Northwest Campus deviate from the standard approach and integrate hands-on art projects into the curriculum. Students receive a seminar approach to getting involved in what is happening locally and nationally.
“The majority of these students are in other fields (nursing, business, sciences, etc.),” said Trish Igo, associate professor of art at the Northwest Campus. “We hope they will discover an interest in art-making, even as something they do on the side of their chosen career.”
According to Murray, art is not just for those who enjoy drawing, painting or other mediums; it influences all disciplines across the board (see “The Importance of Art”). “When students incorporate art into their lives, and really think about why art exists, it forces them to think in a different way—for the brain to work differently,” she said. Her goal is for students to walk away with a different mindset and deeper appreciation for all types of art.
Igo hopes TCC students are contributing to Fort Worth’s growing support of the arts. “Our instructors encourage students to find opportunities to explore art,” she said. “That excitement about and commitment to art is contagious. Fort Worth is fortunate to have some alternative spaces available to exhibiting artists. We are also constantly encouraging our studio arts students to get out and show their artwork in these spaces.”
The Northwest Campus also has several exhibition spaces designed for students to apply and undergo a juried process, as professional artists do. Igo and Murray each claim that the other was instrumental in the development of hands-on projects for art appreciation. They encourage students to ask questions, have open discussions and learn together. The instructors look for new opportunities for students to get out in the community and look at art, as well as bring in guest artists. Thanks to their approach, students are experiencing the art world in ways they may not have before.
“Murray is great at coming up with projects that are easy for students to execute in a short amount of time, while giving the students great-looking works of art they can keep,” Igo said. “The hands-on art projects help students understand not only the materials and processes involved in art-making, but also help them to experience some of the intangibles of art—communication, inspiration, enjoyment and expression.”
Murray believes the fundamentals can get lost when aspiring artists just want to work on projects in the outside world. If they do not learn the fundamentals of art, they cannot proceed. She coaches her students on the basics, but does not push them too hard in terms of content.
I see a lot of artists that have their ‘look’ but I feel like I’m trying to push myself and my students to experience new things every day.
Murray is still exploring new ideas. “I think my aesthetic changes yearly. Seeing local art pushes me even further—that and research keep me from becoming static,” she said. ”I am definitely still growing and haven’t reached my peak yet!”