To many Texans, Whataburger is more than a fast-food restaurant. It’s a beloved brand, a nostalgic stomping ground, a late-night guilty pleasure, or all of the above. But to some artists, it’s also a muse. These artistic creations are now on display in the virtual Whataburger Museum of Art.
You read that right: Whataburger has a museum.
Whataburger introduced the museum in June on Instagram (@TheWMOA) as a way to connect creative fans and provide them exposure at a time when many have relied on virtual outlets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A content and social media team at Whataburger, along with the Austin advertising company McGarrah Jessee, are responsible for curating the collection, selecting professional artists who have referenced Whataburger in their art.
According to Whataburger marketing director Brooks Boenig, the chain has a long history of showcasing their biggest fans’ art on social media, and that as far as the museum goes, “it’s been a long time coming.”
“Many of our artists and many of our fans have a long history with us,” he says. “We’ve been with them at important moments in their lives, we help them form a lot of great memories, and we’ve always been good about having a two-way relationship with our customers.”
Of the 25 artists currently featured, 19 are Texan, including Houston native and current Dallas resident Kristin Moore. She began painting Whataburger art during a two-year stint in Los Angeles, where she found herself yearning for the sight of the iconic orange-and-white “W” on the horizon.
“I started to single out the Whataburger sign in my paintings as a reaction to missing this nostalgic icon that I remember seeing my entire life, and almost taking it for granted until I lived away from it,” she says.
Fast food and contemporary art don’t often go hand in hand, but at this museum they commingle naturally. There are no limitations on creativity—along with paintings and digital illustrations, artists have portrayed their love for Whataburger using all kinds of mediums, from concrete slabs to Whataburger French fry containers and to-go bags to broken mirrors. One artist even created Whataburger art inside a pothole using pieces of tile.
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“To realize the scope of the Whataburger Museum of Art was amazing,” Moore says. “It was not only exciting to get to work with them for myself, but also exciting to see that they had reached out to tons of other artists, that it was actually a really big project and there was a lot happening.”
As for a physical exhibition in the future, that remains up in the air. “In terms of taking it to the next level, that’s always a possibility,” Boenig says. “I can’t say what that will be, but I would say to stay tuned.”
For now, these artists are showing there’s more to Whataburger than just burgers.