From Canvas to Community: The Art of Placemaking at the Moody Center

A group of people in a building.
University of Texas at Austin, Moody Center

From the outset, the vision for the Moody Center at the University of Texas, Austin was clear: to create a space that transcends traditional boundaries, inviting visitors on an immersive journey through the city’s rich cultural tapestry. Our team set out to design a venue that could be more than a vessel for sports and live music — we wanted to create a space that celebrates all the creativity, community, and culture Austin is known for. At the core of this vision lies the concept of placemaking — a holistic approach to design that fosters meaningful connections and celebrates the unique identity of a community.

Curating Meaningful Experiences

The Moody Center is more than just a venue; it's a storyteller of Austin's cultural heritage and a catalyst for future innovation. Through curated experiences, immersive installations, and thoughtful architectural elements that reflect the city’s eclectic spirit, the center invites visitors to become part of a larger narrative of community, creativity, and connection.

Inspired by the dynamic rhythm of music, we created a vibrant mural initiative called the Tempo Program as a collaboration between the Moody Center and a diverse collection of local artists. In total, sixteen artists created monumental murals that span more than 20,000 square feet and transform the center's main concourse walls into canvases of storytelling and community connection, serving as a visual ode to Austin's soul — its eccentricity, resilience, and inclusivity.

Diversity in Design

Guests are greeted by a kaleidoscope of murals featuring iconic landmarks and cultural icons that pay homage to the city's vibrant past, present, and future through a range of styles, mediums and approaches. Some are over 60 feet in length while others are more than 40 feet high, yet all share a common point of view. But it's not just about aesthetics; it's about creating spaces that resonate with visitors on a deeper level. By embracing diversity in design, the Moody Center has cultivated an atmosphere of inclusivity and belonging—a place where everyone feels welcome and celebrated.

The selection of artists reflects a commitment to diversity and inclusivity — not only in terms of gender and ethnicity but also in terms of experience. Through the collaboration of established artists and emerging talents, the Moody Center sets the stage for creative expression and innovation, magnifying the voices of Austin's artistic community.

Giving Voice to the Community

By inviting artists from such diverse backgrounds and experiences, the center has become a platform for creative expression and cultural exchange. Our artist brief was intentionally vague and open-ended, which left plenty of room for interpretation and gave each artist the freedom to bring their unique perspective to the project.

From established veterans to emerging talents, their work infuses the space with a sense of vitality and dynamism. Artists were encouraged to explore themes that resonate with the local community, resulting in artwork that speaks to the heart of Austin's cultural identity. On an interpersonal level, the program facilitated opportunities for the veterans and rising stars to connect and develop relationships and foster connection for mentorship. Participants offered each other support, ranging from personal advice to lending a paint brush.

A wall with a mural.

Inviting Visitors to Participate

One of the key principles of placemaking is creating spaces that encourage active engagement and participation. At the Moody Center, interactive elements are seamlessly integrated into the visitor experience, inviting guests to become active participants in the narrative with self-guided walking tours and curated exhibitions that offer a deeper look into the art and culture itself.

Taking a gallery approach, signage systems were created to highlight the artist and their biography. QR codes scattered throughout the center offer behind-the-scenes insights into the artists' creative process allowing visitors to explore the stories behind the artwork and the artists, including a behind the scenes look at the inspiration and the artists painting the murals. An integrated QR code links to a minidocumentary created to offering a behind the scenes look at the artists story, what inspired them, and their murals at Moody Center. One code showcases the photographic works of Scott Newton on the suite level, offering a glimpse into Austin's storied musical legacy. From iconic music venues to electrifying performances, Newton's photographs encapsulate the energy and vitality of Austin's music scene beginning in the 1970s.

The Moody Center stands as a shining example of the transformative power of placemaking — a testament to the importance of design in shaping our communities and enriching our lives. Through embracing diversity in design, fostering artist collaboration, promoting interactive engagement, and curating meaningful experiences, the Moody Center creates a space where sports, music, art, culture, and community all converge, inviting visitors to become active participants in the placemaking process. The Moody Center's success inspires to continue to create spaces that connect and celebrate the human experience.

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Gerardo Gandy
With a well-cultured background in architecture, interior design, and brand strategy, Gerardo creates seamless user experiences and unified brand expressions. His broad skill set, multi-disciplinary perspective, and rigorous analytical process enables him to create a clear concept narrative to guide the user experience, resulting in dynamic spaces and meaningful brand engagements. He is based in Austin, Texas. Contact him at .