Wheron Shows Dallas the Power of Street Art

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Street art starts a conversation. Vibrant, compelling murals don’t just make our city more aesthetically appealing, they give us something to talk about.

Art is a medium for conveying ideas, thoughts, and feelings, and the more art publicly available, the more people will engage.

As the creative mind behind the art and design crew known as Wheron, Will Heron is no stranger to the power of street art. His art is ubiquitous, manifesting on walls throughout the city.

If you haven’t seen a Wheron piece in person, you’ve probably seen one on social media.

The white “Dallas” Pegasus that was, till recently, displayed in Trinity Groves? That was their “Dalaxy” mural. The 22-foot cactus mural in Oak Cliff? That’s “Cactex.” Maybe you’ve seen their “Dessert Desert,”a common photo-op spot for people visiting the Motor Sisters Ice Cream stand at Truck Yard.

BOLD, RECOGNIZABLE STREET ART

“Any art, whether it’s tagging up a dumpster or a 22-foot mural, is reinforcing aesthetic culture that many people can get behind,” Heron says. “I love the interaction of art — people take pictures and videos; they post on social media and Snapchat. When they write art history books in 100 years, our pages will be on digital and street art conversation.”

Wheron’s art is bold and recognizable. It’s highly stylized, nearly cartoonish; a mix of visual wordplay, familiar deep-South motifs, and compelling concept mashups. (Currently Wheron is in a “cactus period,” so imagine animals with cacti as body parts and blanched landscapes where desert plants mingle with jellyfish, lightbulbs, and skulls).

It’s the kind of work you want to wear on a T-shirt, or put on your wall to make your guests cock their heads and look twice. It makes you think, and it makes you engage. It’s the kind of art you want to talk about.

“Hopefully, we’re inspiring the next generation — or really, any generation — to get involved.” _ Will Heron

“Hopefully, we’re inspiring the next generation — or really, any generation — to get involved,” Heron says.  “Whether it’s making sculptures or tagging or fabrication art, it’s about getting people excited about visual aesthetics.”

The Wheron brand is twofold: part fine art (murals and creative projects) and part commercial (merchandise sales).

The art manifests on everything from T-shirts and stickers sold at local retailers to paraphernalia designed for Haus of Growlers, the Nasher Sculpture Center (notably, a Texas-themed coloring book called Howdy Doodles), and the 2015 Dallas International Film Festival, among others. Wheron is responsible for aesthetics, apparel, and logos seen all over town, and has had art featured in pop-up events and gallery shows.

Will Heron was born and raised in Dallas. At age 5, he told his parents he wanted to be a professional “color-er.”

His sisters were athletic and science-minded, and Heron was the creative black sheep of the family — a million-thoughts-a-minute dreamer who used art to express himself. He went to school at Austin College in Sherman, and when he graduated, he’d made up his mind: “I knew that art was what I needed to do to be a happy person for the rest of my life.”

TEAMWORK BREEDS STREET ART SUCCESS AT WHERON

Currently, he teaches at a charter school while simultaneously holding up his end of Wheron — that is, everything you see in terms of art, design, and creativity. But he couldn’t do it alone: Jorge Alcala works as Wheron’s business manager, handling monetary transactions, and Sarah Duke does the marketing and communications.

“We’re only as successful as we are because we are a team, and we bounce ideas off one another and work together,” Heron says.

It’s a formula that has served them well. Since Wheron’s beginning in 2012, the group has grown quite a bit — these days, they’re often approached to collaborate in shows and paint murals. And until recently, all Wheron’s work was done from crew members’ living spaces.

That changed in March, when Wheron officially unveiled their first creative space, designed as a place to connect and collaborate with other local artists. The new workspace, a 1300-square-foot house called the Platform, debuted during an all-day event that included a meet-and-greet, shopping opportunities, and access to Wheron’s latest artwork. Visitors were also given the chance to start a creative conversation by spray painting the wall out back.

“This is a creative hub, a place to display, create, and sell our art work, but we want it to be a place that’s communal.” _ Will Heron

“This is a creative hub, a place to display, create, and sell our art work, but we want it to be a place that’s communal,” Heron says. “This is not a stuffy, white-washed art gallery where everything’s behind a velvet rope. We love the idea of showing others’ creative work.”

As for what’s next, in May, Wheron will partner with local sculptor Dan Lam to produce Prick, an exhibit exploring sharp edges and all things spiky. The event will be held on Friday the 13th at the Platform, where there also will be a tattoo artist ready to transcribe Wheron’s designs to skin.

Heron told Dallas Innovates that Wheron is in talks to complete more murals in the coming months, and that this year, Wheron hopes to grow the brand beyond Dallas — expanding into other parts of Texas, and even into other states.

Someday, Heron said, he’d like to work on Wheron full time. But for now, he’s content just to get the art conversation going. 


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