How does it feel when an artist's work is demolished? Bittersweet. That is, according to Will Heron, a.k.a. Wheron, a Dallas native who has left a mark all over the city.
Wheron's first large scale public piece, Dallaxy, existed for a little under a year at the corner of Fabrication and Beeville in Trinity Groves but, despite its popularity, the mural was destroyed in 2015 to make way for the neighborhood's rapid commercial development. This weekend, the signature Dallas Pegasus makes a triumphant return, repainted on the side of The Platform, a temporary space for gallery shows, artistic collaboration and community gathering, set to open with an all-day open studio event, beginning at noon on March 26.
As with the original Dallaxy, don't get too attached. The Platform's days are numbered, and for Wheron, that's part of what makes it so special.
"We might be here three years, we might be here 10 years. But, definitely no less than one year," explains Sarah Duke, Wheron's public relations officer.
First, a clarification: "Wheron" is both a professional alias for lead artist Will Heron and the name of his collective, which has created a burgeoning empire producing both fine art and retail products. We'll refer to the man as Heron and the group as Wheron for clarity. As a whole, the group consists of Heron as its main creative arm with Duke running public relations and Jorge Alcala handling the retail business. They have signed a temporary lease to inhabit a 1,300 square-foot property, which includes a former house on a quarter acre of land in an art-friendly section of West Dallas. Eventually, it too will be torn down for further development.
Heron says the experience of the original Dallaxy's demolition was "both sad and happy," and that informs his views on the new space.
"It was a bummer ... On the flip side, that's why we do street art and murals because it's an evolving landscape," he says, "It's expected that buildings will get torn down, but that's why it's not in a museum behind a piece of glass."
Named in honor of West Dallas' history as a hub for locomotion in the 19th century, The Platform's renovations include murals on its outer walls, graffiti-style paint on its interior walls, and installations like former bathtubs filled with a harmonious collection of about 20 different species of cacti, succulents and native Texas plants.
You'll see a lot of "native Texas" in Heron's work, but it's never kitschy or too on-the-nose. Born and raised in Dallas, Heron graduated from Austin College in Sherman and now works as a high school art teacher at a charter school in West Dallas. It's clear throughout his body of work that the region has left an indelible mark the way he sees the world. So it stands to reason he was one of four artists chosen to create the Texas-heavy Howdy Doodles: A Coloring Book of Southern Drawls and Drawings, a wildly successful collaboration produced by the Nasher Sculpture Center. He's also behind large-scale street art in practically every Dallas neighborhood including Deep Ellum, Oak Cliff and Lower Greenville, with the cleverly named "Dessert Desert," at the Motor Sisters ice cream stand at Truck Yard.
And, while Wheron looks forward to pushing a brush against other areas of the city and country, the new space's location in Trinity Groves -- just a matter of feet from Dallaxy's original spot -- seems fitting, evoking the image of a Pegasus rising from the rubble. There's a burgeoning "creative community emerging at the foot of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge," a release says, and that community includes the adjacent Erin Cluley Gallery -- which commissioned the original Dallaxy -- and nearby Fabrication Yard, a city-owned "free wall"open to professional and amateur taggers for legal public painting.
When it comes to the retail side of Wheron, even in the Dallaxy mural's absence you might have spotted renditions of the mural's Pegasus around town on t-shirts, stickers and even beer growlers. It's a popular design, as are the cacti drawings featured in a number of his illustrations. At this weekend's grand opening, you'll find new summer gear like tank tops and crops tops, as well as new prints and sticker packs for sale, which have proven popular as collector items with fans who have followed Wheron for awhile.
Heron says "in an ideal world" he'd focus exclusively on fine art, but there's a major benefit to the retail business' popularity: "It's great to have income not dependent on selling a $1,000 painting; it's small money, but if you sell enough t-shirts, that's our studio's rent for the month."
But, ultimately, the goal is to continue sharing artwork with the city. That's why Heron, Alcala and Duke -- each of whom maintain full-time, professional jobs during the week -- have put so much of their personal time into the passion project.
"We set expectations to pore a lot of creative energy and life into this space,but we're well aware we won't be here in the next decade, so we'll enjoy the moment and time we have right now in an underutilized part of town that won't look like this in 10 years because of urban development," Heron says.
"When the moment has passed, we'll move the idea somewhere else."
Fitting of such an ephemeral space, the best way to stay connected and keep up with The Platform's upcoming events is social media. They'll post event notifications, updates and designs online on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Wheronart on SnapChat.
"Even if the studio's locked up, we'll be changing the outside murals all the time," Heron says. "There's a free wall in the back if someone wants to come and do a giant mural, they're very welcome to."
Scroll through for a sneak peek of The Platform's new design: