Mural Competition at Blackshear Elementary School

Here’s the pdf of the RFQ: RFQ_Blackshear

Completed Mural Project at Blackshear Elementary School

About a year ago, Art Alliance Austin organized and led a mural design competition for the Blackshear Elementary School in Austin. Earlier this summer the winning and completed mural was unveiled to the school’s community and the public. Art Alliance is proud to parter with Austin Independent School District and Page Sutherland Page to bring great art works to our community. 

In August 2014, Blackshear Elementary became the district’s first elementary school fine arts academy, and in September 2015 it was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school. Three-fourths of Blackshear’s students are low-income and 86 percent are either Hispanic or black. Blackshear Elementary School’s innovative and progressive approaches boost economically disadvantaged students to high performance levels that prepare them for future success. The faculty and learning systems remediate and accelerate Blackshear children up to grade level and provide each student with a strong academic foundation. Additionally, the community and professional partnerships enrich the students with fine arts opportunities that actively develop and offer a whole-child learning experience.

                    together we educate   to excel

Art Alliance partnered with the Austin Independent School District and Page Southerland Architecture to lead a mural design competition for a new original work to be installed on the outside of Blackshear Elementary School in Austin, TX. The winning mural design was from a quartet of local artists – Jason Archer, Briar Bonifacio, Josh Row and Michael Sieben – who together have shown around the world and contributed some of Austin’s most iconic murals. The team was led by a professional proposal coordinator who manages multi-million dollar proposals for one of the largest civil engineering firms in Texas. The committee consisted of a Gallery Director of one of the most successful galleries here in Austin, an international professional artist with work in the Blanton, and a faculty member in the department of art and art history at the University of Texas, Austin and personally has work in the permanent collection in the Blanton Museum.

                    enrich   and exercise

The team of artists contributed an iconic character design to one of the four 8’x6’ openings on the proposed exterior of the building. Each artist received a percentage of the commission with the remaining going directly to the production of the mural installed by Show Goat Mural Works, an Austin based visual arts company with a focus in design and production of large-scale murals led by Jason Archer and Josh Row. Jason, Briar, Josh, and Michael are each practicing visual artists within the Austin community and beyond for over ten years. Of the project, the artists understood the importance of fostering a creative environment for children. They hope the project has positively influenced the lives of the schoolchildren by letting them realize that their own dreams as artists can be realized too.

Mural Competition at Blackshear Elementary School

Project:  Blackshear Elementary Mural

Budget:  $3,000-$4,000


Here’s the pdf of the RFQ: RFQ_Blackshear

Project Summary


Art Alliance Austin seeks to commission a professional visual artist, or artist team, to design and install a mural for Blackshear Elementary in East Austin.

Art Alliance Austin requests qualifications from professional visual artists, or artist teams, who live in the United States. The total budget available for this project is $3,000 to $4,000.

Project Background

Over the past three years, Blackshear Elementary has overcome many of the academic challenges that typically beleaguer an east Austin Title 1 campus by establishing many inspiring partnerships which support and complete the campus’ creative and artistic transformation. In addition to little academic background knowledge, many Blackshear students enter school with a lack of exposure to fine arts and enrichment opportunities — activities that more affluent children participate in outside of school in order to embrace, nurture, and develop their artistic interests. To help reverse this trend, students at Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy are able to experience a range of innovative programs led by highly skilled faculty, community volunteers, and artists.

During the normal school day, Blackshear students receive instruction in creative learning strategies in a multitude of Fine Arts concentrations. Blackshear’s alliances with local artists and professional and community organizations offer a myriad of creative and enriching programming for their students. This includes individual and group instruction in artistic expression, ballet and dance, multiple musical instruments, photography, creative movement, and theatre. The breadth of Blackshear’s offerings shows that collaboration with partnering organizations and artists positively impact the students’ lives by offering challenging, transformative artistic enrichment to all Blackshear students.

During the same three year timeframe, academic performance has also thrived, as measured by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) accountability rating system. This has resulted in the school earning numerous awards. Blackshear’s academic performance in academic year 2013-14 resulted in Blackshear earning all six possible TEA academic distinctions, with a high 90 percentage passing rates in all core subjects. In the summers of 2014 and 2015, Blackshear earned a double honor when it was named a Gold Ribbon elementary school by the Texas nonprofit organization “Children at Risk”. TEA also recognized Blackshear as one of a select number of Title I Reward Schools due to its high student academic performance. In January 2015, the fine arts and academic recognitions continued when Blackshear was named as one of only 26 Texas schools as a 2015-16 National Blue Ribbon School nominee. Such remarkable accomplishments have been realized through the mutual efforts of staff, parents, administrators and community members that collectively embrace a philosophical approach which provides Blackshear students a well-rounded educational experience through quality academic, fine arts, enrichment and physical exercise programs.

Blackshear elementary wishes to visually exemplify their commitment to the arts through an outdoor mural on their campus.

Blackshear Elementary

Blackshear Elementary School opened in 1891 to provide a free, public education to Austin’s African-American children during a time when public schools in Austin were segregated. Through the challenging years of desegregation in the Austin Independent School District (AISD), programs and facilities were expanded to service the educational needs of the growing and changing student population. Blackshear’s history includes not only historical controversial and academic challenges, but also recent obstacles such as neighborhood gentrification, which has led to a significant decrease in student enrollment over the past 10 years. During the 1999-2000 school year, Blackshear’s enrollment was approximately 450 students. Until last school year, enrollment was at half that number of students. The projected student enrollment for the 2014-15 school year remained decreased with only 212 students. However, due to the progressive fine arts curriculum and an academic commitment offered by Blackshear Elementary personnel, the school has been transformed into an academically vibrant and culturally rich campus that is currently ranked as one of the highest performing academic elementary schools in the state with an enrollment of nearly 300 students. This revitalized school is also the first public elementary Fine Arts Academy in AISD.

Currently, the student demographics of Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy are the following: 65% Hispanic, 30% African American and Black, 4% White, and 1% Asian, with 91% of the total student enrollment classified as economically disadvantaged. Additionally, of the nearly 300 enrolled students, 65% are classified as academically “at-risk”, a phrase denoting a student who, if left to standard pedagogical and curricular programming methodologies, may not experience academic success in middle school and/or high school. These students are consequently limited in their probability of entering university. Blackshear Elementary is geographically located east of Interstate 35 in one of the areas rated a high crime area in the city. Despite the many challenging factors surrounding Blackshear elementary and its students, recent transformative years have empowered the students to thrive academically while enhancing their social-emotional learning and building bonds in both a culturally and creatively rich fine arts community.

Blackshear Elementary School’s innovative and progressive approaches boost economically disadvantaged students to high performance levels that prepare them for future success. The faculty and learning systems remediate and accelerate Blackshear children up to grade level and provide each student with a strong academic foundation. Additionally, the community and professional partnerships enrich the students with fine arts opportunities that actively develop and offer a whole-child learning experience.

Motto: Blackshear Yellow Jackets; Together we Educate, Enrich, and Exercise to Excel!

Art Intent & Goals

Art Alliance Austin seeks to commis­sion a high quality mural that advances Blackshear’s mission of artistic enrichment through the selection of a qualified artist who can innovatively and thoughtfully design within the context of this project. The goal of the project is to select an artist who will design artwork that:

  • enhances the aesthetic environment of the Blackshear campus;
  • contributes to a local, regional and national art dialogue; and
  • positively impacts the students’ lives by offering artistic enrichment.


The funds for this project are agreed upon by Blackshear Elementary and Art Alliance Austin. The total award for an artist contract is no more than $4,000 inclusive of design team collaboration, design, materials, and installation of artwork (including any related shipping expenses and insurance), travel, and other project related costs.

Artwork Opportunity

This art opportunity is open to a wide range of ideas to be proposed by the selected artist, or artist team, (Artist) in consultation with the soliciting entities (Art Alliance Austin and Blackshear Elementary). The artwork is to be located on the specified exterior wall of the school. The four openings in the brick are identical in size – they are 8’-0” W x 6’-0” H. A variety of media will be considered.

The Project’s schedule will require the Artist to begin work when selected and complete installation by May 2015.

Artist Eligibility

Professional visual artists, at least 18 years of age, who live and work within the United States and are eligible to apply.

A professional visual artist is defined as “a practitioner in the visual arts with an original, self-conceptualized body of work, generally recognized by critics and peers as a professional possessing serious intent and ability.” Applications not meeting all eligibility criteria will be withdrawn from consideration.

Evaluation Criteria

The selection of an artist, or artist team, shall be based on whose qualifications best meet the requirements contained in this Request for Qualifications. In addition, the following criteria will be considered:

  • artistic merit and technical expertise;
  • demonstrated ability to successfully execute innovative public art projects;
  • demonstrated ability to successfully execute public art projects of a similar scope;
  • demonstrated ability to successfully execute a public art project on time and on budget; and
  • expressed interest in creating artwork for Blackshear Elementary.

To Apply

Applications must be received no later than 5:00 pm (CDT) on December 1, 2015 via email to

  • Artist Contact Info and Bio/CV
  • Statement of Interest – no more than 2 pages
  • Samples of past work (within five years and no more than 10 images)
  • Mock Up of the proposal with statement
  • References (no more than 3)

Selection Process

Art Alliance Austin will convene a Selection Panel (including working artists, curators and university art professors) to evaluate the submissions and review qualifications (images of work, resume, letter of interest, references). Up to three finalists will be selected. Blackshear Elementary will then select one artist and one alternate.

The selected finalists will be contacted and may be asked to provide additional information about their proposals.

Schedule (subject to change)

September, 2015: Request for Qualifications (RFQ) released

December 15, 2015, 5:00 pm (CDT): Deadline for RFQ submission

December, 2015: Selection Panel review of submissions and selection of finalists

January, 2016: Selection of artist and alternate

March- May 2016: Installation and project completion


Holly McDaniel, Director of Development

Art Alliance Austin

512-974-9310 or