A train paying tribute to the city’s past is steaming into town while hot air balloons that reflect its present are flying high in a new mural taking shape in downtown Longview.

Longview business owner and artist Zahck Israel and fellow artist Diego Baracaldo are collaborating on the mural, which was commissioned by The Knights of Pythias for a building at the corner of Center and Tyler streets. The mural, which is slated to be completed in early September, pays tribute to the city’s history.

“We hope everyone enjoys it when it’s finished,” Baracaldo said. “That’s our purpose.”

As other murals were created by the Arts!Longview Cultural District, The Knights of Pythias began reaching out directly to individuals in search of local artists who could create one. Israel, who grew up in an artistic family and who’s spent his life creating art in various forms, was referred to them. Israel then partnered with Baracaldo, who created another mural in the Cultural Arts District on the Longview Symphony building.

The duo passed renderings back and forth with each adding ideas so the composition was created by both.

“(The Knights of Pythias) wanted it to represent Longview and some of the things they do in the community,” Israel said.

A steam engine, oil derrick, horses and hot air balloons can be seen in the mural against a backdrop of a sunset.

Israel said transforming a smaller sketch onto the gigantic wall while maintaining the correct proportions has been the most difficult aspect of creating his first mural. That’s something Baracaldo experienced in his first mural. He learned some things from that experience that he’s brought to the new mural, but he said each experience is different.

“The surface has changed; this is a new surface. The materials don’t change too much, but the logistics of everything changes a little bit. It’s a learning experience,” he said.

The metal surface is different than the brick on which he previously painted, and he’s trying new techniques on the new mural.

Israel said he’s enjoyed collaborating with Baracaldo on the mural as they learn from each other.

“It’s nice to have somebody to lean on. That’s the best part of getting to collaborate with somebody. It relieves the pressure,” he said.

Baracaldo said while the two have similar ways of thinking, they have different ways of seeing colors and shapes.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience. I have learned a lot from Zahck. He’s been feeding me a lot of his mindset and the way he sees things,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from that, and I hope I can feed him the same energy.”

Israel and Baracaldo said they hope their new mural, along with the others in downtown Longview, give the community a sense of pride and identity and spark more creativity in the Cultural Arts District, which includes downtown and extends south to LeTourneau University to encompass the Belcher Center.

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Christina Cavazos is the News-Journal's senior reporter. A Sherman, Texas native, she earned a journalism degree from Texas Christian University. She covers a variety of issues in Longview and the greater East Texas area.