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UTSA mural melds vibrant art and installation expertise

J&R Tile’s project manager Gus Tolleson, together with James Fierros, engineered the temporary, modular structure on the building with metal framing, with bolts where the tile assembly can be removed and moved to a different location. Fierros painted the metal framing to match the color of the painted back walls, creating a seamless look.

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) had a plan to add beauty through its campus, and reached out to artist Mark Hogenson to create a mural for its downtown campus, supported by its public art funding. 

The mural, “Discovery Enterprise,” offers a new look into the future in an age of continual expansion, Hogenson said. Located at the UTSA Cybersecurity Building Campus, it needed a skilled tile contractor to bring the work to life. And they found it in NTCA Five-Star Contractor J&R Tile, Inc., based in San Antonio. 

“Hogenson reached out to J&R to see if we could take a sketch that he had drawn up and have it blown up and printed on porcelain tile,” said Erin Albrecht, Owner and President. J&R arranged for the tile to be custom printed on 12″x12″ porcelain tiles by Tile Artisans Digital Imaging LLC (tileartisans.com), based in High Springs, Fla. 

J&R attached Dural XPS waterproof backer board and waterproof sealant to the structural framing to prepare for tile installation.

Artist Mark Hogenson approved the color samples of the porcelain tile before installation. The 600 sq.ft. mural was required by UTSA to be a “temporary” installation that wraps around the building’s Northeast corner and is illuminated with LED lights at night. UTSA wants the option to move the mural to a different location on campus in the future, and potentially have a different mural erected in that location. So the substructure had to support the durability of the current mural, but be capable of allowing the mural to be moved at a later date. 

Special scaffolding was put up and taken down every shift to work on this 60’ long mural.

J&R’s scope of work and goal included installation of structural, removable steel framing and the custom tile mural assembly attached to the building. J&R Tile’s project manager Gus Tolleson, together with James Fierros, engineered the temporary, modular structure on the building with metal framing, with bolts where the tile assembly can be removed and moved to a different location. With excellence in mind, Fierros even painted the metal framing to match the color of the painted back walls, creating a seamless look.

J&R attached Dural XPS waterproof backer board and waterproof sealant to the structural framing to prepare for tile installation. The 12″x12″ custom porcelain tile had to be perfectly installed on a grid, so the layout took major planning.All the components had to be carefully placed with silicone movement joints and locations for later removal and transportation. And special scaffolding was put up and taken down every shift to work on this 60′ long mural.

In the cool of the evening

The temperature in San Antonio during this project was over 100 degrees during the day, which interfered with proper performance of setting materials. The decision was made to switch the work to 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the installation team.

The biggest challenge was fighting the over-100-degree San Antonio summer heat. Work on the mural was initiated during daytime hours, but the mortars kept flashing over. A new plan was made to overcome the challenges of product limitations and specifications – switch the work to 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the installation team. This ensured cool enough temperatures for the TEC XMS single-component adhesive to be properly applied and cured. Since the exterior porcelain required 95% mortar coverage with a 1/8″ grout joint – and the LED lights create “wall washing” accentuating the lippage at night – there was no room for error. 

One unique feature of the mural is that it wraps two side of the UTSA Cybersecurity Building.
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Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor.

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