A fun thought experiment I like to play is asking friends what their 14 year old self would think of their life today. I’ve actually never asked Will Bryant that question but let’s imagine together, eh?
Will grew up in Texarkanas, Texas, in the middle of God, country and football, which essentially is the same thing as football, football and football. At 14, Will was running track, playing beach volleyball and being a leader on his basketball and football team. Less evident at the time, underneath that young football helmet, was a blossoming artist.
After finishing his MFA in Contemporary Art Practice in Portland, adult Will moved back to Austin where he and I became fast friends. There’s a scene from White Men Can’t Jump that describes Will as an artist. Wesley Snipes is hustling the court wearing a cycling cap and a flashy basketball getup. Will looks more like Woody Harrelson but embodies the athleticism, charisma, and fashion of Snipes.
If you peruse Will’s site or do a quick google search, his body of work is somehow equally impressive and fun. However, three projects stand out to me as the ones that would blow 14 year old Will’s mind the most:
1. In 2017, the NBA All-Star game was in Houston. Will was invited to do a live three day mural in collaboration with Adidas and James Harden. The mural was designed to mimic an outdoor playground complete with a chain link wall. Over several days, the court was hand painted with Will’s signature squiggle alongside Harden’s iconic beard. Could 14 year old Will have handled Candace Parker, Kyle Lowry, and Jamal Murray signing the backboard? Doubtful. Also, James Harden won the MVP the following year which doesn’t feel like a coincidence.
2. Both Will and his parents are graduates of Mississippi State. In 2018, Will was asked to design athletic sleeves for Mississippi State’s football team. A 14 year old Will being handed a sleeve from one of the Bulldogs after the game would have been a teenage highlight. Twenty years later, he got to watch them run onto the field with his design on their arms.
3. Finally, perhaps at the height of what would have kept 14 year old Will sleepless with excitement, was designing AN ICE CREAM SHOP! He put together a mural and fashioned a cup for Amy’s Ice Cream. Dale Whisler took Will’s design and created a massive ice cream cup sculpture on the top of the building. That’s worth a young scream and an old scream for ice cream.
Last week, on a 95 degree “autumn” night, three friends, Will and I raced west down 6th street weaving in and out of traffic towards the Austin hills. With a camera in hand, I fired off a few shots going 20 miles an hour shooting Will Bryant’s new Texas inspired Magnum PI cycling kits. We climbed up to Mount Bonnell and sat on the cliff enjoying the sunset over Lake Austin. I wish 14 year old Will could have been there. With an ice cream cone in hand.