North Fredericksburg Road returns to its roots as part of the Old Spanish Trail in a new mural set to fill the 130-foot-long south wall of the Bubble Bath Car Wash.

The car wash and San Anto Cultural Arts (SACA) held a community paint day on Thursday, inviting community members to contribute in the most hands-on way possible – by taking paintbrushes in hand and helping the mural artists fill in the vibrant colors of their images.

At least 40 community members, including kids of all ages and their parents, were on hand to help finish the large-scale mural in time for its unveiling party from 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 15.

“It’s San Antonio coming together, around a car wash, taking something mundane and making it wonderful,” said Nicholas Lopez, son of Bubble Bath’s founder Larry Lopez and its director of operations.

Nicholas Lopez said the bright colors will stand out along the busy commercial corridor. “The vibrancy of it really captures the soul of this town,” he said.

Last year, father and son decided a mural covering their car wash building at 3934 Fredericksburg Road would be the best way to honor their community and the family’s seven generations of life in Texas.

After meeting with SACA, which chose Rudy Marco Herrera as lead artist for the mural, a series of community meetings was undertaken to determine its content. Community members, Herrera and his team of artists, and the Lopez family decided together that the history of the Old Spanish Trail (commonly referred to as the OST) lent an ideal backdrop for depicting their own family story alongside that of the surrounding community.

Lead artist Rudy Marco Herrera gives teal paint to Salome Castaneda.

“The OST was a natural pathway for animals, a natural migration line,” Herrera said. The route’s origins deep inside the ancient Aztec Empire gave him his starting point for the mural, which takes the form of a subtle timeline realized in symbols and images.

At left, Aztec dragons peer at the constellation of the garza bird, or water bird, which represents the creation myth of the Tap Pilam tribe indigenous to the region, while also referencing the water that makes the Lopez family business run.

“I like that they incorporated some Mayan or Aztec and Mexican American culture,” said Virginia Peche, who brought her elementary and middle school-age children Jesus and Luz to participate in the community paint day. “We haven’t seen that very often, and it’s really good to be in touch with our ancestors and where we came from.”

Jesus said the dragons were his favorite among the mural’s many images, and Luz, filling in a section of a deep blue-gray hue that comprises an indigenous male’s hair studded with stars, said she appreciated the rich range of colors.

Asked how she feels about contributing to a mural that so many people will see, Luz said, “It means a lot, because if this brings a lot of people joy, then I’m going to feel pretty good about it since I feel like I brought a little part of that joy into it.”

Virginia summed up her own experience, saying, “It’s really good for the community to come together and create something,” a sentiment echoed by Herrera.

Community members work on the mural, set for unveiling Aug. 15 at Bubble Bath Car Wash at 3934 Fredericksburg Road.

“You’ve gotta get the community involved” in the mural-making process, he said. “If you’re part of some mural, and you see some developer trying to move in on that, you’re gaining numbers. You’re gonna defend it more, you’re going to care about it more. You’re just more invested if you put your hands on it.”

Stephanie LaFroscia has worked on a previous SACA mural and brought her daughter Lucia to participate in the community paint day. She said she hopes Lucia learns the power of collective action.

“It feels really powerful to know you’re making a mark collectively on your city, that you’re part of something bigger than yourself,” LaFroscia said.

As Larry Lopez surveyed the gaggle of kids and parents crowding the mural’s painted surface, brushes in hand, he said he looks forward to the moment when the mural is finally finished and installed on the long car wash wall. “It’ll be quite dramatic when they get it all up there, an explosion of vivid colors,” he said.

The Aug. 15 unveiling is free and open to the public.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...