Hilton, Baggett bring MSU Texas ties to new mural in downtown Wichita Falls

Better Together

Hilton, Baggett bring MSU Texas ties to new mural in downtown Wichita Falls

 “Better Together” is the theme for the newest mural in downtown Wichita Falls. After three years, the project is finally a reality for Wichita Falls artists Steve Hilton and Jesse Baggett. The project served as a reunion between Hilton, Professor of Art at Midwestern State University, and Baggett, his former student who graduated in 2014.

The 38-by-24-foot ceramic tile mural, located at the intersection of Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue, displays animals working together to hang the moon and features a 13-foot elephant.

Hilton, a ceramics artist, and Baggett, a painter, were commissioned to the Better Together project in 2020 by the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture with grants from the National Endowment on the Arts and The Texas Arts Commission.

“A good team for sure,” Baggett said. “It was pretty overwhelming because there’s so much I didn’t know about. The fear of the unknown, I didn’t know how it was going to go, and how to solve all the different problems.”

When Margie Reese, Wichita Falls Alliance senior programs director, asked Hilton about working on this project with a painter, he was pleased to find out they also wanted Baggett. “There’s nobody else I would have rather done this project with,” Hilton said. “We laughed more than we worked. And we worked a lot.”

Better Together mural full size view from the street
"Better Together" mural completed by Steve Hilton, MSU Texas professor, and Jesse Baggett, MSU Texas graduate. There was a dedication downtown on Feb. 8, 2023. 


Thanks to the kindness of Wichitans, they already know it’s going to be well received in the community. Baggett said one gentleman said it was “peaceful” and another told the duo they were “making magic.” Some just wanted to honk, give a thumbs-up and say “good job.”

“We’ve talked to everyone from the homeless to the executive to the family with the 4-year-old whose expression is the best, he’s in awe,” Hilton said.


Working on the floor to create the look for the mural Better Together

(Photos/Jesse Baggett)

Steve Hillton taking a look in the classroom at what would become the "Better Together" mural in downtown Wichita Falls.


It was a lengthy progress to accomplish the “Better Together” mission, the first mural for each of them.

“There were problems, the coyote – it was really important for his paw to touch the mountain lion’s paw,” Baggett said. “Learning how to move the lift. But it was a huge project, and we were definitely inspired to keep on going.”

They don’t have plans for a second mural at the moment, but looking up at the near-finished product in early February, Hilton said, “If we don’t ever do another mural, the knowledge is lost. Will we do another one? Part of me hopes so.”

It was time-consuming of course. And it wasn’t just passersby who would comment. “The animals talk to you,” Baggett joked.

And the mural will have more to say to downtown visitors for as long as the building will stand.

“The title is ‘Better Together’ and at the end of the day that’s the message,” Hilton said. “We wanted something that’s consumable, something that everyone would be interested to look at.”

Baggett put it simply, “we wanted to inspire rather than criticize.”

“The mural is a testament to Wichita Falls’ long-standing tradition of coming together during difficult times,” said Ann Arnold-Ogden, the Alliance’s executive director. “Our community has faced numerous challenges and has always emerged stronger, thanks to the resilience and determination of its residents. The tile mural serves as a powerful symbol of this unity, reminding all of us of the power of working together toward a common goal.”

Jesse Baggett stands beside the mural before the painting was finished for the background on the mural.
Jesse Baggett stands beside at ground level of the "Better Together" mural. A project where she and Steve Hilton said they "laughed more than they worked." The work was plentiful on a three-year project.


“Better Together” mural wins statewide People’s Choice Award

The “Better Together” mural created by MSU Texas alumna Jesse Baggett and Professor of Art Steve Hilton has won the People’s Choice Award from the Texas Downtown Association in the Best Public Improvement in the Population over 50,000 category. The mural is located on the parking garage at Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue in downtown Wichita Falls. Downtown Wichita Falls Development and the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts & Culture accepted the award on Oct. 25 at the President’s Awards Gala in Nacodoches, which was held in conjunction with the 2023 Texas Downtown Annual Conference.