Empathize With Thy Neighbor

Artist: Rachel Dickson

Location: Juniper 

The ”Hearts of the East Side” campaign has strived to provide the east side with a little more color, love, and, community. Eleven different artists were granted the supplies and freedom to create a heart with whatever inspiration they deemed fit. The steel heart frames were constructed by an artist with his own heart feature, Todd Campbell. The brains behind the campaign, Selena Souders, helped get the artists together and organized the project.

Artist, Rachel Dickson, got involved with the project during her showcase of the East Austin Studio Tour. She was showcasing at 1102 East and owner of the space, Selena Souders, approached her regarding the heart project. 

“I was super excited by the idea of community behind the project,” shared Dickson. “Shortly after I was introduced to the people from the City of Austin and we were able to move forward with plans!” 

Dickson has been involved with the east side for several years since she moved there in 2011. 

“The first place I lived in Austin was on the east side. I have been a fan of the area since moving here and some of my favorite local establishments are east,” said Dickson. 

In addition to living here and creating art, she also owns Native Hostel, a unique hotel experience on east 4th. “It’s been really amazing to be involved in the culture of the east side through that,” added Dickson. 

Dickson created her heart installation, which sits in front of Juniper at 2400 E César Chávez St. Originally, at the unveiling of the hearts, Dickson had a different design than what currently sits there today. 

“I redesigned my heart in July to align with the current climate of the BLM movement,” said Dickson. 

Her heart is titled, “Empathize With Thy Neighbor.”

“Much of my work is inspired by grief and empathy, which I believe is incredibly important in community – so I knew I wanted to stick with something in that realm,” remarked Dickson. 

Along with the design on the front, she included a design on the back of the heart.

“It’s an interactive piece of art in which the community can contribute. The premise is that while “loving thy neighbor” may be a stretch, you can certainly empathize with your neighbors,” said Dickson. 

The design process for the heart primarily involved paint, Dickson’s most frequented medium. She cut plywood and stretched canvas around it, primed, and varnished. 

“For install, I had the help of some concrete workers who created a solid concrete base for my heart. After the wood, plexiglass, and plywood and the solid steel frame my heart was so heavy it took at least three people to move it,” explained Dickson. 

Dickson made the heart “hands on” with its viewers, as she provides them the opportunity to write on the back of the heart, adding names and notes of the people they’ve lost in their own lives. 

“It’s a reminder to all that we don’t know what our fellow neighbors are going through – grief, tragedy, anything – but a little empathy can go a long way,” expressed Dickson. 


Stay in Touch with Rachel Dickson