Sacred Heart of East Austin Kicks Off a Month of Hearts
In celebration of the East Side of Austin, 11 artists participated in a unique project that has come to be known as the “Hearts of the East Side.” Artists were given full reign on creating a heart masterpiece, and their various works and creative designs range in color, dimension, style, and inspiration.
Evan Voyles, an Austin native and sign making legend, created his neon lit heart and gave it the name, “The Sacred Heart of East Austin.” His heart art piece shines brightly outside of the Swoon Salon on 911 E César Chávez St.
Voyles got involved with the project before he even knew the exact details or direction. He was approached by longtime client and trusted friend, Selena Sounders, a fellow artist and owner of the local studio, Big Red Sun. “If Selena Sounders says I’ve got a project for you…I’m going to say yes,” Voyles says with a smile. Voyles has built lasting relationships with Sounders and numerous other local artists who took part in the project.
The materials used for his intricate heart neon sign came from Voyle’s previous projects. To describe just how dedicated he was in creating this heart design, Voyles shared the in-depth details of his process. To avoid the messiness associated with the project, Voyles stripped and washed the paper off the plexiglass shaped heart, while he himself was stripped down in the shower.
Once the creation was complete, Voyles was apprehensive about the installation and placement of his heart. While his signs typically sit placed at a higher-level view, it was an adjustment placing it at a street level. Despite the modifications, he found success in implementing his heart and getting his message across, which is to acknowledge the authentic culture and people of the east side of Austin.
Though Voyles left Austin for a brief period of time during his life, he eventually made his way back. When reflecting on Austin and his return to the city, Voyles says: This is where people come to do dreams. I left thinking I would never return. I was quite surprised when I did return. [But] this is a great place to try stuff.”
Voyles has certainly made a name for himself in the city of Austin. He’s spent many years in the sign making business. Today, South Congress is home to over seventy of his iconic, uniquely lit neon signs. Most recently, he purchased a former gas station and is in the process of making it the new home of The Neon Jungle, a workspace and studio. His hope is that this new studio will be a place for many people to come visit and take in his unique signs, following the current coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Despite the current hard times, Voyles is optimistic in his hopes and vision for the city of Austin. “Austin is still going to breed creativity and loyalty and passion long after I’m gone. It is the nature of the place, and that cannot be destroyed,” he says.
Voyles continues to leave a lasting impact through his work. Each piece he creates contains a different story and stands for a greater purpose. Through “The Sacred Heart of East Austin,” Voyles proudly pays respect to the Hispanic and Catholic communities and cultures this side of Austin proudly has to offer.
Not only is his artwork a unique and important part of East Austin, Voyles is an iconic and important contributor to the city.