City of Ruston Invests in Local Artists

Jonathan Shaul
Staff Reporter at The Tech Talk

According to social norms, painting on a public wall can be considered vandalism, but the city of Ruston decided to break that norm and hire two local artists to paint a mural on a building downtown. It will be the first of two they are to paint.

Nicholas Bustamante and Whitney Trisler Causey are the masterminds behind the mural.

Bustamante, an associate professor of studio art at Tech, said the first mural he worked on was one in Homer in 2012. He said he had no idea what he was getting into when he agreed to work on the mural.

“It’s not as easy as what you’d think as far as painting on the wall,” Bustamante said. “We had to work on scale and distance, we had to figure out how to mix huge batches of paint and get it consistent color wise.”

He said the texture of the wall they were painting the mural on in Homer was destroying the brushes. The budget was only about $3,000 and it was used up in the first shipment of paint. He had to use some of his own money to finish the project.

“The community was so engaged with the project and us as artists,” Bustamante said. “The connection with the community was something I hadn’t experienced before, and for me that’s how I approach all of my murals and something I want to pursue.”

Bustamante and Causey said the community is one of the biggest reasons for doing the mural they are currently painting in downtown Ruston across from the Dixie Center for the Arts. They said because Ruston is where they both work they want to be able to make that same connection with the Ruston community as they felt in Homer.

“We’ll see people walking down the street taking pictures or business owners coming by and updating their blog,” Bustamante said.

He said they will be including logos representing Tech, the farmers’ market and the Ruston High Bearcats to highlight some of the areas of the community and working to come together as one.

“It becomes this huge billboard for people coming through,” Bustamante said. “You look at that and you know that this is a place that values the arts.”

He said when people see it they will likely want to stop and see what is going on in the community and figure out why they would invest into the mural.

“I think it’s really important that the community invests in local artists,” Causey said.

She said this investment shows support for local artist and it represents where the community is willing to put their financial support. They both said one of their biggest challenges is not just working around their schedules, but also the weather.

“The whole week it’s sunny, but when Friday happens it is pouring rain,” Bustamante said.

He said it’s more frustrating than anything else. He and Causey usually set aside Friday and Saturday to try and work on the murals they paint.

Bustamante also teaches a class about painting murals. He watches over his students as they design and paint a mural over a single quarter. One of the projects they worked on was the mural on the Ruston Farmers’ Market.

“Being a small part of someone’s transformation is huge,” Bustamante said.

He said while he was teaching in Los Angeles, he had around 30 to 40 students per class and that it was impossible to develop some sort of connection in that size of class. Now, teaching at Tech, the classes rarely get above the high 20s, so he has a greater chance of getting to know them and impact their lives.

“As an artist you need to be showing your work at exhibitions and it’s important that you put yourself out there,” Bustamante said.

He said as an artist there isn’t any point if you aren’t willing to let others see what you have done. Bustamante said it won’t be comfortable, but you need to open yourself up and show people who you are through your art.


Nicholas is not a native of Union Parish and he has never lived there. However, he married a Upshaw, my niece Hannah. His Mural Art can be seen in Ruston, Monroe, Homer, Jonesboro and even in Farmerville.  You read that right, he painted a mural in the entrance of the Union Parish Library. You can also visit his website Bustamante Art



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