Muralist Spreads Optimistic Message in Downtown Dallas When It's Needed Most

The gray concrete canvas of the downtown Dallas Sheraton Hotel parking garage is getting a pop of color with a hopeful message

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The streets downtown Dallas are eerily quiet. The few people walking around have dogs on leashes and masks on their faces. In that strange picture, one thing stands out: a bright, new mural taking shape on the Sheraton hotel parking garage at the corner of Harwood and Live Oak streets.

"Well, right now getting out of the house is kind of a big deal," muralist Mari Pohlman said. "I'm out here on the streets and there aren't many people out."

Pohlman dragged her ladder back and forth in front of her gray concrete canvas. She plotted her art months ago, before the world changed.

"It ended up becoming so much more relevant," Pohlman said. "The mural says that 'optimism starts with you.'"

Those are the words on the wall. A bright blue figure is at the center. It signifies you, or me, or anyone who looks at it.

"It's meant to show the ripple effects of optimism," Pohlman said. "It can start with one person."

As the mural has taken shape over the week, those who are sheltered at home from their high-rise apartments commented on Facebook about their new, colorful view.

"Even though we're far apart, it's giving us a point of connection," Pohlman said.

"The way it's set up with the person in the middle and everything coming out...it just hits you," Karen Sanders said via FaceTime. "I just think it's so awesome and everybody needs that message right now."

Sanders stopped by on Thursday afternoon to snap some selfies in front of the mural with her dog.

"What I want people to see when they look at this is that you can't change the situation, but you can change yourself," Pohlman explained. "You're gonna search for the silver linings, and you're gonna search for ways to adapt and help other people, and connect more than you otherwise would have."

"Even just being happy and saying hello to people makes a big difference," Sanders said.

The mural was commissioned by Frost Bank and CultureMap as part of a broader optimism campaign in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Austin.

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