Meet the man behind the brush, Rafael Acosta, Jr., a Cuero native behind the murals

A Cuero Big Town Summer Tour special, featuring Cuero native and artist Rafael Acosta, Jr.

 

CUERO, Texas – If you’ve driven through Cuero, it’s hard to miss the numerous murals and beautiful artwork that is sprinkled throughout the town. Well, meet the man behind the brush, Rafael Acosta, Jr. Acosta was born and raised in Cuero, and from a young age he knew he had a special talent for art, he was a natural-born artist.

“I was in my element. And for me, art class was my playground. You know, you know how kids get excited if you say, we’re gonna go out and play well, me in the art room, yay, and so forth,” says Acosta.

However, he didn’t have the funds to go to college, so not only was he a natural-born artist, but he is also a self-taught artist, learning and perfecting his skills on his own.

“You know as much as I wanted to go to college for this, you know not having the money to do that, I was poor. But I did a lot of on my own what you call fieldwork, and you go out and you look and you study and you make notes and mental notes, paper notes. And you take in colors,” says Acosta.

Acosta would spend many years on the east coast, where he’d work as a counselor, and eventually made his way home back to Cuero to be closer with his mother and hometown roots. Once back home he was able to chase his dreams of doing murals something that had been there his whole life.

“That wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. I wanted to paint a mural on the building. And as a kid, they just, I don’t know, I guess, they shoulda let me do it. So interesting. I have to wait 40 years, come back to my hometown and do it. That’s really crazy,” says Acosta.

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Senator Lucio Jr. presents Acosta Jr. with an honorary gavel at a recent art show.

What would start out as a single mural on Main Street has now blossomed into his livelihood, with Acosta staying busy with people from all over wanting to commission him and his art.

“This is fair therapy to me. That’s why people say well when you go to vacation I don’t I don’t go to vacation. This is my love and passion, so I don’t need a vacation,” says Acosta.

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All though he’s got art pieces all over the county you can find many right here in Cuero and with Cuero being dubbed the turkey capital of the world Acosta has painted his fair share of turkeys, paying tribute to hometown hero Ruby Begonia, the turkey that races each year in Cuero’s annual turkey races. He has also painted other Cuero landmarks.

“But the picture on the side when I show it to you is a painting of the water tower. And I’m gonna show it to you. And I will say this, I’m very, I’m very proud of that one. Because that is exactly how the water tower used to look,” says Acosta.

In libraries, schools, churches, and on the walls of main street Acosta’s murals are hard to miss. One of his more unique commissions is just a few minutes outside of Cuero where he painted a landscape mural across two silos, all the way around. Just a testament that Acosta is not only a talented muralist but that he can paint on almost anything anywhere even in the elements.

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One of Acosta’s commissions in a historic small chapel in the Bahamas.

“You know, you don’t really only work to avoid the heat, but you work aware of the elements because it affects the paints, the longevity of them, and all that. I mean look at this texture. So, you have to paint that you got to get that paint in there. You can imagine what brushes I destroyed how many I went through,” says Acosta.

The silo mural captures summertime in South Texas, blending the colors of the landscape with the mural, almost making it hard to differentiate between art and real life, where the lines between reality and the imagination began to blur, at least that’s what the deer thought.

“When I finished him. The homeowners next morning they called me they said to me Rafael, yes, you won’t believe it. I said what is it? Well, that Buck you painted, we went there early this morning we’re going to go somewhere and there were just a whole bunch of does around here. I said oh that’s good. It means he’s a big buck,” says Acosta.

Some projects take Acosta only a day but ones like the silo one can take as long as a month. However, he prides himself on finishing all his art commissions on time and has met every deadline.

And he prides himself on meeting every deadline he’s been required to meet, even working in one-hundred-degree weather, he has dealt with heat exhaustion a few times.

“Yeah, this is what I was meant to. You know, you said earlier you know you’re given a gift people are given gifts and this is mine,” says Acosta.

So next time you’re in Cuero take some time to slow down, and appreciate the art that can be found, hidden gems in Cuero and beyond.