German muralist painting Victoria during Victoria film festival
April 2, 2014 at 10:03 a.m.
Updated April 1, 2014 at 11:02 p.m.
Gray clouds drift across an evening sky; a cool breeze moves in, rustling wee leaves in the parking lot behind the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.
A few hours earlier, the lot behind the center - stage right of a darkened door labeled "Stage Door" - was bustling with fervor.
An artistic and cultural transformation of the walls was in progress, altering the downtown theater's exterior aesthetics.
All that remains on the wall after sunset Monday are indistinct, high-reaching markings of an octopus' tentacles wrapped around a horse.
With only days until the start of the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival on Thursday night - the mural's completion date - German master illustrator and muralist Bernd Muss, 41, is spending the next few days and many hours at the wall finishing a varicolored acrylic and aerosol work.
The artist's aim? Uniting Victoria culturists with those of his native Hamburg.
"What's so unique about (this opportunity) is that in Victoria, people are interested in what you're about and what you're doing," said Boris Castro, translating for Muss via Skype from his home in Hamburg. "There's an overflow of artists here. There's so much graffiti art everywhere, both legal and illegal, that your work can get lost. You have to be better than everyone else to get noticed. But in Victoria, (Muss') work can stand out."
Castro, a German filmmaker and juror at VTXIFF, has been working collaboratively with Muss, who is also a master tattoo artist, for many years across various artistic platforms including illustration and graffiti art, tattoo conventions and film festivals, among others.
On Sunday night, Castro and Muss arrived in Victoria from Hamburg. The following morning, the master began sketching the mural's bones.
"He's really at the top level as far as his work is concerned," Castro said. "He enjoys this kind of work, and he hopes people can take something from it."
Castro said for him, the trip to Victoria is also meaningful.
Though he's traveled to the States many times and attended high school in New York, his interest and career in film continues to direct him back to Victoria, especially since he's established deep roots and friendships with locals, including, most importantly, VTXIFF organizer Anthony Pedone.
"I think we work well together because there are no egos. We share common goals, and we like to showcase people's work," said Pedone, mentioning the symbiotic relationship they share during the year, exchanging artists, ideas and filmmakers back and forth from Castro's Radar Hamburg International Independent Film Festival to his own VTXIFF. "We have a similar mission in mind to introduce culture and art to our communities, and I feel like it's a great way to set up a system of exchange with other countries."
One of those exchanges, Pedone said, was bringing Muss to Victoria.
"It's not what you'd expect to happen in Victoria. You think, 'Really, in Victoria, they're going to let you spray-paint on the walls?'" Pedone said. "So it's a sign of the times that things are loosening up here, and people are hungry for a wider cultural perspective."
Muss' mural, alongside two other walls painted by guest Austin graffiti artists, will be showcased during the film festival. People are welcome to visit at any time, Castro said.
"People should really come up to us and talk to us while we're here. And I think Bernd is hoping that people will keep in touch with him," Castro said. "Maybe when they pass by the mural, they'll remember, 'Hey, that's from the German guy who was here during film fest.'"