Photo Essay: The prohibition of art in a small town

October 12, 2023 | By BRITTANY HUNTER

Imagine a world without art—where humans are held captive by drab colors and stale, monotonous imagery of the day to day.

One doesn’t have to be an art buff to understand how art delights the human senses and paints our lives with beauty and meaning. Art invokes a deep gratitude and appreciation for simply being alive.

Not all people feel this way, however.

Just an hour outside of Houston sits the small town of Waller, Texas, where renowned painter Brad Smith, his wife Kay, and his company Tilt Vision Art have worked with local businesses to paint colorful murals on otherwise dull and colorless storefronts.

For many in the town, Brad’s murals are received with joy and admiration. But the city council doesn’t share this sentiment.

The city’s disdain for Tilt Vision’s work has led to a city-wide prohibition on murals, stripping Brad, and the businesses he works with, of their First Amendment right to freely express themselves. The ban is also threatening the livelihood of Tilt Vision.

Pacific Legal Foundation is helping Brad fight back and defend his First Amendment right and restore his ability to bring beauty to small towns.

The buildings below were once run-of-the-mill rectangular boxes. They are shopping centers, storage units, and local brick-and-mortar businesses. But Tilt Vision artists used their paintbrushes to bring these buildings to life.

These photos show how Tilt Vision Art has used their murals to transform these businesses and give them character. But what about the buildings that will remain lifeless because of the city’s ban?

One of the projects Tilt Vision has been unable to start—thanks to the new regulations—shows us how much the town benefits from Brad’s work.

What the building looks like now:

A Photoshop rendering of what the building would look like if the city council wasn’t standing in the way: