Murals Become Part of the Big Picture for Foundation Communities Housing

April 25, 2024 | Posted in FC Creates, FC Creates: Arts, Housing, Uncategorized |

Whether they’re enjoying coffee hour or playing a bingo card, residents of Zilker Studios say they feel a sense of calm and serenity from the flower-filled mural that graces a large wall in their community room. Calm is what the artists with Creative Action’s Chroma Collective had in mind last July, knowing that many Zilker Studios residents have experienced homelessness. A post of Chroma Collective’s Instagram page says, “Design was inspired by the residents’ desire to have a floral piece that was both calming and fun, and we took a lot of inspiration from 70’s wallpaper vibes.”

Residents picked the flowers from a handful of design choices. Carla Rangel, shown here, says they love the mural and they loved playing a role in its creation. “This is the place where we bond and we form community,” said Carla. “I feel like [Foundation Communities] has really tried hard to make this a place of peace.” Chroma Collective threw in a second mural, a similar floral painting near the main floor’s stairwell.

This is not the first, or even the most recent mural painted at a Foundation Communities development, and it won’t be the last. Last year, we allocated funds from the development budget for the flower mural, and for the huge mural of longhorn cattle in a field of wildflowers that adorns The Loretta Apartments. With a grant from Texas Commission on the Arts the project grew from murals on three concrete dumpsters to a three-story pictorial, which involved renting a boom lift.

The central figure in the mural is Loretta, a calf that once lived on the property and was named after singer Loretta Lynn. That calf is now happily grazing in Leander. Residents and others love the mural and its story, including artist, J Muzacz.

“I wanted to bring home the idea that we honor our predecessors and have a special reverence for the land on which we inhabit,” said Muzacz. “I initially connected with Foundation Communities through the Loretta mural art call because the mission of the organization resonates with why I paint murals and make public art. I believe everyone is entitled to a fair and equitable quality of life, including the enjoyment of colorful and inspiring art and murals on a daily basis!” You can watch an incredible video of the creation of this mural on Instagram.

Foundation Communities will open Balcones Terrace this year for single adults, and plans are underway to include a mural there.  Executive Director Walter Moreau said, “Some of our building walls make a wonderful canvas to share artwork that celebrates a sense of home and community.”

The connection between murals and Foundation Communities dates back to 2016 when we were clearing land to build Lakeline Station Apartments. A mural of Willie Nelson was found on a garage building in the middle of the field. Managers thought it was “really cool” so they salvaged most of it… the part that was painted on a garage door. “Then, we had the idea of hanging it on the side of Bluebonnet Studios where it would be more visible,” said Moreau.”We were able to track down the artist, Sam Barboza and he was willing to help with the new installation and freshen up the paint.”

The story of another mural that stands behind Garden Terrace Apartments in South Austin has a different tone. In 2019, six residents of that community for single adults passed away. Other residents and staff felt a strong desire to preserve the memory of the neighbors they had lost over the years. Thanks to a grant from NeighborWorks’ Community Leadership Institute and guidance from Austin Creative Alliance, planning began for the mural.

A short time later, the pandemic struck. As a result, the mural project went onto the back burner, but by the start of 2022 it was back on with plans for “The Hope Mural” to be painted on two 8’ x 4’ wooden panels. It would include hearts, clouds & stratosphere, wildflowers, Lady Bird Lake with the Austin skyline, the Garden Terrace complex and its residents. The memorial artwork was a collaboration of Imagine Art, Art-a-Gough-Go and Foundation Communities residents and staff. The Hope Mural was unveiled with an elaborate event on March 25, 2022. You can read more about is on the Imagine Art blog.

In the summer of 2022, Foundation Communities decided to have a mural painted on a large wall near the property manager’s office at Laurel Creek Apartments. We hired Russell Freeland, a former Foundation Communities maintenance employee who had occasionally used his background in art to organize events for residents. Freeland was asked to come up with a concept that would engage residents.

The project called “Our Many Paths Home” features many colorful pathways radiating toward an image in the center that represents the facade of Laurel Creek’s main building. Freeland says his own past struggles with poverty and trauma showed him how seemingly small things can be enough to keep a person afloat, emotionally. He decided to ask residents to add images to the mural. “These are all people’s paths, and I just wanted them to place the things that were significant to them on their path as they came to this moment in time and this place,” said Freeland. Freeland says for some residents the activity has evoked quite a bit of emotion. Of course residents will come and go. The mural at Laurel Creek has removable panels so managers can always make room for new residents to illustrate their own path home.

Foundation Communities has built a reputation for creating affordable communities that are also attractive, and for supporting Austin’s creative community. Seeing the way these murals have instilled a sense of pride in residents and staff, and how they have beautified and enlivened walls and community spaces, our plan is to continue to incorporate art in our communities as funding allows.

Note: Foundation Communities is currently seeking sponsorship funds for the planned mural at Balcones Terrace. Contact Michelle Le at to learn more.