Stockyards Burger Stand Gets a New Mural With a Message

Calina Mashay Johnson

There are two sides to the newly painted mural on Hooker’s Grill — one, a bull rider in front of the Texas flag, and the other, a Native American woman shooting an arrow while sitting on a moon surrounded by wildflowers.

by Marissa Alvarado

There are two sides to the newly painted mural on Hooker’s Grill — one, a bull rider in front of the Texas flag, and the other, a Native American woman shooting an arrow while sitting on a moon surrounded by wildflowers.

Both are homages to restaurant owner Ruth Hooker’s parents: Her father rode bulls in college, while her mother was a descendent of the Choctaw tribe. In creating a mural for her walk-up burger stand on West Exchange Avenue in the Fort Worth Stockyards, Hooker says she wanted to be purposeful, not just with the art itself, but with the artist.

“I'm a Native-American, woman-owned business, and I own this property,” Hooker says. “I wanted a female artist to come and put her brand on my building because it just enhances what women can do and what old school can do.”

That artist was Calina Mashay Johnson, or Cal — a street artist by profession but a small-town girl by heart. Growing up in rural Texas, Johnson says she remembers the parades, jubilees and pride that once went with living in a small town. Today, Johnson and her husband, Kevin, travel to small towns across Texas and work with the chambers and citizens to create art and revitalize spirits.

“People are starting to take pride again,” Johnson says. “People are moving out of cities, and there's been a resurgence back into these charming little towns.”

Johnson says she typically avoids working in bigger cities such as Fort Worth, but she decided to work on a piece for Hooker’s Grill because of its owner.

“The reason I wanted to work with Ruth is because she's an independent, strong woman running her business, doing her thing here,” Johnson says. “She has a super soul and heart that wants the best and for the right reasons.”

Calina Mashay Johnson and Ruth Hooker

Part of the reason Johnson says she agreed to create a mural for Hooker’s Grill was the recent changes to the east side of the Stockyards, referring to the $175 million renovation currently underway.

“The thing about the Stockyards is there's been a lot of talk about change and moving in a new direction,” she says. “It's like, can we just leave Texas alone? Can't we just keep some things that are truly Texas?”

For Johnson, “the dusty, old part of the Stockyards” is “small-town Texas.”

“This is the thing that makes Texas, Texas,” she says. “If we take this away, we're losing our identity.”

Before becoming an artist, Johnson was a board-certified behavior analyst who worked with children with autism. She eventually left the job, saying she “loved the therapy but hated the paperwork.”

Johnson says she had been going through a hard time and decided to paint to get through it. That’s when she realized what she wanted her new direction in life to be — still changing lives, but in another way.

“I didn't think I necessarily had to be a therapist to change people’s lives or be good for them,” she says. “It's been cool to be able to do what I love to do. [It] energizes me and gives me my passion. This is what I'm supposed to do, and I know that.”