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Waxahachie High School graduate, former NBA star and now internationally-acclaimed artist Desmond Mason poses by one of the two hearts he was painting this week. This work in progress was to be installed at Lee Penn Park.

Waxahachie High School alumnus Desmond Mason is more than making his mark in the international world of art.

The former NBA star recently returned to Waxahachie for a couple of days to paint two hearts that will join the others his hometown’s signature facet. One of the hearts, inspired by his “Love” series, will be installed at Lee Penn Park, across from his family home on Getzendaner Street. The other will be placed at Freedman’s Memorial Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It’s the first public art installation in Waxahachie for Mason, who was approached by the city to ask his interest in doing a commissioned piece.

“It was a pretty easy decision to do,” said Mason, who then personally funded the second heart (the one at Penn Park) for the city’s heart series that now numbers more than a dozen installations across town.

“I grew up in Penn Park,” he shared with the Sun during a brief break from painting the hearts at the city’s parks and recreation building. “When I saw that spot was available, I knew I wanted to have that.”

The “Cross My Heart” one was slated to be installed late this week on a concrete pad where once sat a set of bleachers. It’s also across from his beloved late grandmother’s house.  

“I spent a lot of time in those bleachers next to the concession stand,” he said, talking of how he and his friends filled their time playing games and taking off on adventures that included fishing for crawdads in a nearby creek. “We’d gather bottles and cans and sell them and then go buy about 50-cents’ worth of bacon or bologna,” he said, his face breaking into a smile and laughing at the memories. “We’d have crawfish fights.”

Art has always been a part of Mason’s life. At Waxahachie High School, he studied under Carl Block and continued working on his passion at Oklahoma State University, where he majored in studio art and also studied art history, according to the website, www.athletesforart.com. Concurrently, he was gaining recognition as a basketball player, which saw him as a first-round pick in the 2000 NBA draft.

Even while playing professional basketball, Mason continued working on his art and held several exhibitions before his retirement in 2009. Since then, it’s been a full-time focus on his work, which has taken him and his family through shows and exhibitions around the world to international acclaim, with more than 40 individual shows to his credit. Upcoming shows and exhibitions will see him traveling to Moscow, Madrid, New York City and Los Angeles, among many others on the list.

“I get to do this,” he said, noting his inspiration comes from several sources, including his family and his travels.

He’s been working on a documentary of his life and career – and hopes to have that completed soon.

“It’s one of those things that’s a constant process and I want to do it right,” he said, noting that one of the film’s premiers will be held in Waxahachie.

Follow Mason’s artistry in action on social media: Desmond Mason on Facebook and dmasonart on Twitter and Instagram.

“I’m on it all the time,” he said, smiling again before picking up his paint brush again.

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