Originally published by Do512
Contributed by Thom Fain:

Austin arts collective SprATX recently celebrated their grand re-opening and three-year anniversary. Their new office space and gallery at 2400 East Cesar Chavez is something that has been in the works for over 6 months, but SprATX as a business has been in the making since 2013.

Via SprATX.com: “We started out as just a small side project, with the idea of putting local Austin artists designs on t-shirts via screen-printing. With promotions through Instagram using one universal hashtag, #spratx, the t-shirt sales blew up ultimately leading to requests for more designs and other art operations around the city.”

“Our collective went on to help promote these local Austin artists by fostering “Free Art Friday”, where artists would hide their art around the city and we would Instagram hints of where to find it. The phenomenon exploded, sparking local festival Fun Fun Fun Fest to request artistic activations in order to help their brand stand out during the festival. This was a huge turning point for SprATX; now we had a major recognition that would soon lead into us taking part in SXSW and the X Games.”

It is now 2016, and SprATX has grown into an endlessly creative family of street artists and muralists, with a brand new gallery space that will be a home for local artists, events, and the recently launched SprATX line of signature apparel. We recently stopped by the newly-opened SprATX store to have a conversation with co-founders Molly Moroney and Mouf. Read our interview below, featuring photos by Roger Ho.

Do512: Awesome space, can you tell me a little about what you’ve done since moving in here?

Molly: In the gallery, we just had our opening show last weekend. Everyone did a different take on our crown logo, so the canvases were cut out and everyone did their own take on it, and we did a silent auction on those. We’re going to try and do two shows a month and then also do community events, like we’re going do a screening of an art movie, and we’re going to open it up to some artists if they want to give a talk on something or teach a little workshop — anything of that nature.
Molly: And then we’ve got the store and a permanent gallery, so we’ll have pieces rotating out of there all the time. We sell 350 colors of spray paint now, and we just launched our new clothing line and we’ll be coming out with short-runs of the clothing. We’re trying to keep it fresh, so it’s like get it while you can!

Do512: This new space looks like it was designed just for you.

Molly: Both spaces were really cool in their own right. The old space was a brick and industrial building with low ceilings, and we were like teenagers but now we’ve really learned what to do and what not to do and we’re coming out in a bigger, badder way than ever before.

Mouf: One of the cool things that we’ll be having now, compared to what we were in the smaller space, is a gallery we’re going to build as a place for art to be seen here in Austin, and be a home for that. The artwork here will be rotated weekly to bi-weekly so the artwork is always fresh. The other thing is our recently launched SprATX clothing line.

Molly: We’re opening up to the community to allow them a space for workshops and those sorts of things. Art supplies, that has exploded. Our last store we had 50 colors, now we have 350 and all the major brands of paint. More caps, and more markers than we’ve ever had. We’ve never done specials and sales before but we have a new customer loyalty program where you’re going to get deals out the wazoo.

Do512: And does the storefront provide revenue to help you guys hire new people?
Mouf: That comes from jobs we do with the artists, commissioned work. The store pays for itself but we only have a couple people working the store.

Molly: Most of our major source of revenue comes from event planning, helping produce arts for events like DoStuff’s SXSW installation. Live painting events.

Mouf: It’s moved further from just doing activations for clients, now it’s kind of being an agent for the artist — finding brands who are looking for someone who are looking to market their brand through a certain look. So we’ll work to pair up artists and companies looking for long-term relationships.
Mouf: One of our biggest goals this year is that, for three or four of our artists, we’re going to try and represent and grow them and campaign for them to do large scale murals and events all of the world. There’ll be a lot of traveling this year; Hawaii, Brazil.
Do512: Are you able to help green talent, newer artists who want to get into the industry, and provide them a legal space for them to practice their craft?

Molly: Yes! We’re always looking for new talent both here and abroad, and we’re always open to submissions for both the gallery and to become a contract artist. There are so many people looking for this art form, which is kind of in the spotlight.

Mouf: It does have to fall in line with what we do — being green, being new and having talent is great — but we’re a little outside of graffiti and street art in some aspects, but it’s always still based on that rawness and look and feel. If an artist puts something out in the streets that’s fine, but we try to separate the two.

Mouf: It’s all about helping an artist get seen by a larger crowd, and on social media they get attention for the cool things they do. The murals, which might not be their biggest commission, are a thing people love to see and know and recognize.

Do512: Would you say you sort of bridge a gap between Street Art and High Art?

Mouf: For sure.

Molly: We work with artists that, all they want to do is street art and it’s a personal knack and the graffiti they do, it comes from within. And we work with artists that have that, and we work with artists that don’t have that. Or are just at a point in their life that they don’t want to risk doing it anymore and they want to transform that talent into something to live off of.

Mouf: In graffiti you do it to do it — there’s no being famous, you don’t do it to become rich off of it. Street art, same thing, you’re giving a message. Without saying the name of the artist, who isn’t a well-known artist to the general public, but there’s an artist well-known in the graffiti world. This guy was amazingly talented, but he painted trains like no tomorrow, painted illegal spots like crazy and was well-known in the graffiti community as a hell of a writer.

Mouf: But in my hometown, he was well known as a fine artist. He was hired quite a few times to do projects for the City and they never knew those two were the same person. When he finally got caught, they couldn’t believe it was this guy who’s doing such great things in the city and doing amazing artwork, making a good living — and in this world, he’s hella talented and well respected.

Mouf: So those are the worlds we’re kind of in between. And some people that are still just straight up bombing and doing street art for street art’s sake look at it and say, I don’t want any part of that.


Do512: Would you say the spirit of communalism in East Austin kind of helps a conducive environment for these artists to do their passion legally?

Mouf: I think Austin as a whole, actually.

Molly: Everything we do as a company is by the book. And we work hard to find these opportunities for artists. Like, we’ll partner with a business and they’ll give us a wall to curate. And we can allow for these artists to get hired and they’ll get these bigger opportunities once they get some exposure. We try to find both paid, and just portfolio opportunities for our artists to just get a piece from their sketchbook up on a wall.

Mouf: And then the other thing is, social media is such a huge part of what these artists rely on today. So we’re able to help them post and re-post, to build that platform and create a fan base and honestly — when companies come to us — they pick literally the most well-known, because they want the recognition back from their followers.

Mouf: So there’s a symbiotic relationship saying, “You’re a well-known artist and we’re a well-known brand, working together is just going to help both of us.” So our first steps are to put all the artwork on social media and start promoting from there. After that starts gaining we’re able to match you up with people needing commissioned work.


The SprATX Crown by Mila Sketch
Molly: A lot of businesses come to us because they’re not having to go directly to an artist, and maybe that artist isn’t quite the aesthetic they want. So they can come to us with the aesthetic they want for us to match them up.
Molly: To go back to your question. When we first started, we were taking any job for an artist — that was more money in their pocket, and helping them follow their dreams. Right now what we’re looking at now, is finding more partners and clients that will come say, “Hey we want this big sign painted.” And partner them with the artists.

Mouf: Exactly. Instead of ‘using’ the artists’ talents for your business, we want the artists to be independent. So they can showcase their talents and abilities, almost like a collaboration with the client. Instead of a business saying, “This is what I want,” which anyone can just paint what

Mouf: Now we’re leaning more toward clients that want, for the artists’ sakes, use their artwork. So you’re not asking the artist to design you a logo or anything like that.

Do512: What would you say is your outlook for the near future, business wise and artistically?
Mouf: Larger scale events. We have POW! WOW! and Instagraffiti coming back through for SXSW this year. These are programs we really want to do, because that’s what people pay attention to. Large scale art is a phenomenon now, what street art was back when we started. Now festivals are basing themselves off of having large-scale artwork. Used to you had to be doing it for years and years and years, or be dead for your art to be successful. But right now an artist that is generally 3-4 years into their serious art career, they can go out to a festival and do one big thing for a client and make $10,000. Which is insane.
Do512: So what events do you have coming up soon?
Mouf: I can say during SXSW we’ll be doing something huge. Twice a month in the gallery, we’ll have events going on. Next up is a collaboration with the Austin Child Guidance Center on February 13. We’ll have 12×18 prints for silent auctions with proceeds going to that charity. Then on February 19-20 we have Screaming Hands’ show for the 30-year anniversary of Jim Phillips, the Screaming Hand for Santa Cruz.
Molly: They’re doing a traveling show around he nation and their Austin one is going to be here with us in conjunction with Fast Forward. They’ll be bringing it in with crates and we’ll be setting it up.

Stop by the SprATX store and and gallery at 2400 East Cesar Chavez to look around. For hours and more info follow SprATX on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and at SprATX.com.