Waco artist Brad Settles and the leafy green mural that spans the south wall of the Waco Racetrack will make their Magnolia Network debut on Saturday night when the network airs its “Public Artist” pilot.
The show airs at 10 p.m. Saturday on the Magnolia Network, streaming on Discovery+ and on the Magnolia app. He follows Settles as he designs, organizes a paint crew, and then puts his “The Gift” mural design on the six-story brick canvas on the Hippodrome’s back wall.
For Settles, 38, who teaches advanced art at China Spring High School after years teaching at University High School and Robinson High School, the November 2021 project was not only by far his greatest artistic creation, but helped him reach a personal milestone: he cured his acrophobia.
“One of the greatest things (about the project)…was overcoming my fear of heights,” he said. “I was the only artist up there who wasn’t happy.”
November weather didn’t help, with winds and rain negating a few days of painting the 55ft project.
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The Magnolia Network held a mural contest with four artists submitting designs and a straw vote at Waco Racecourse to select a winner. Settles submitted one of the intertwining leaves and vines tied with a white bow inspired by one of his 2017 paintings.
Cameron Park inspired the design, providing a metaphor for how a collective comes together. By extension, it also demonstrates diversity and equal access.
“We all consider Cameron Park our own, but we don’t own it. … (It’s) a place we all belong,” he said.
And the arch in the center can raise questions.
“What is the gift?” Settles said. “Each other? Cameron Park? Nature?”
The Magnolia production impressed the artist with its attention to detail and the effort put into ensuring a quality result.
“It was a lot of work and not like you see it on TV,” Settles said.
There were Zoom meetings, sketches, emails sent back and forth, and even a recommended wardrobe for filming.
It takes a team to paint a six-story mural, and Settles led one by Cory Lind, Mateo Cantu and Naomi Canale, another first for him.
“I had to learn to trust this team and let go,” he said. “They were incredibly talented personalities.”
A highlight of the project was working with Mark Firmin, author of “William Cameron Park: A Centennial History,” with whom he shared a mutual appreciation for Cameron Park and its role in the community. “Public Artist” features Settles chatting with Firmin in the park as well as scenes of the artist in his studio.
Settles’ first chance to see the finished TV program will be on Saturday night, but he’s proud of the project dominating viewers on Eighth Street and Franklin Avenue.
“I’m blessed to have been a part of this,” Settles said. “(Magnolia) meant it was a gift to the City of Waco and there’s no (artist’s) signature on it. … Like Cameron Park, nobody owns it.