Art All Around Us
Austin's juiciest public artwork is a blend of passion and company pride
Austinites may not know her name, but they certainly know Emily Mente's work. As the creative project coordinator at Juiceland, Mente is the woman behind some of the city’s most Instagrammable murals.
After graduating from Hendrix College, a small liberal arts school in Arkansas, Mente was hired by a friend working in Juiceland’s corporate office.
“It’s how I snuck into the Juiceland group,” recalls Mente, who was originally hired to work catering events. “The menu was always the same, but the events were very different, and I had fun creating the chalkboard signs.”
Juiceland CEO/originator Matt Shook took notice of her spirited style and quickly tasked her with a T-shirt design and later a Wundershowzen mural.
“He wanted to see a Wonder Woman-Wundershowzen visual mashup,” she says. “I sent him a sketch and he asked how comfortable I was painting on walls. I hadn’t had experience besides in art school, but it just felt like it was right to say yes to.”
Before her first mural, located in the hallway at the Guadalupe location, Mente’s only experience had been in college — and it was less than memorable. “We worked with oil paints, and I was really not into it. The colors were muddy, and I couldn’t get that saturated glow I get with the work I do now,” she says.
Mente likes to say her career as a muralist came out of left field, but she has quickly gone on to create more than 20 murals as well as hand-cut wooden signs and even the bikini and sunglasses on the gorilla at Juiceland's Lake Austin location. Most recently, she painted a 22-foot-tall "Drinks Come True" piece in downtown Austin's Facebook building.
“It’s the biggest mural I’ve ever painted so we needed a scissor lift, which was so fun to experiment with,” she says.
To begin each new project, Mente works hand-in-hand with Shook, whom she calls “the idea machine," to discuss their creative vision. Then, she will use Procreate on her iPad to understand what it will look like in the space before heading onsite with a projector and tacks to create a grid.
“It’s definitely a learning curve to get the proportions right,” she says. “But once it’s measured and mapped out, it’s like paint-by-numbers.”
Because Juiceland is known for heralding a plant-based lifestyle, anything featuring fruits and veggies is a go-to for the artist. For the South First Street mural, she went with a cosmic theme, which like the Wundershowzen-meets-Wonder Woman idea, has proven successful.
“He wanted it be this fun, cosmic scene where there are creatures like a longhorn, gorilla, and turtles drinking out of the juicy watermelon world,” she says.
It’s definitely one of Mente’s wackiest designs but evokes that happy feeling that all Juiceland patrons get when they walk into the store.
“When you walk in and there’s something so bright and vibrant, it immediately reinvigorates you,” she says. “It’s been a fun and creative five years, and I love it.”