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Join the discussion: For a Texas mural artist, a window in an unexpected spot opened up new options

Artist Tommy Lee worked on a mural in Amarillo, Texas.Andrew Hall/HOODOO Mural Festival

AMARILLO, Texas — Tommy Lee was staring at an 18-by-12-foot expanse of wall in downtown Amarillo, pondering the unexpected window smack in the middle of it. The artist was set to start painting a mural the following week but this wasn’t the space they’d have picked if given the choice. That window wasn’t part of the plan.

Even though Lee recently had their first big art show, the planning for this particular work of art had been a little nerve-wracking. The city’s HOODOO Mural Festival, a public art and music festival, was set for the first of October, and it was going to be Lee’s mural debut. “I’m still new to the [art] community and people don’t really know my name yet,” they said.


Lee is a lifelong resident of Amarillo, and the efforts to fill blank spaces with art matter a lot to them, especially in the context of Texas’ conservative and often exclusionary politics. “It’s kind of scary being an openly gay, nonbinary person who’s an artist, who’s expressive, who’s nontraditional, you know?” Lee said. “Just trying to be myself in a place like this, it has been scary.”

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Lissandra Villa Huerta can be reached at lissandra.villa@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @LissandraVilla.