The title of this is perhaps a little misleading. No, I'm not using (probably un-)fashionable slang to say that Houston's cultural scene is disappearing, or uncool, or anything else. Houston isn't going anywhere, a fact that is actually in some ways down to this very mural! Now you may recognize this one. Not only is it a now-famous landmark in Houston's Street Art scene, but it has also featured on my blog before (lots).
The Houston Is... mural was commissioned and sponsored by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2013 as part of a campaign to rebrand the city as a colorful, fun, and most importantly, YOUNG place to be. The initiative, dubbed the "Houston is Inspired Campaign", aimed (and still aims) to unite Houston's disparate artistic neighborhoods and organizations: The Museum District, the Theater District, Houston Arts Alliance, and Fresh Arts. Yes, there is still a long way to go in making Houston's cultural sector a cohesive whole, but it's come a long way in two years and you can thank initiatives like this for that!
Two years after its unveiling, this poster child (or should I say mural child...ha) for the Houston is Inspired Campaign still adorns the south wall of the Treebeards restaurant building in Market Square. The central words read "Houston is inspired, hip, tasty, funky, savvy", surrounded by psychedelic tendrils of color that seem to flow outwards from the mural, stretching beyond its concrete confinements to join the skyline above.
The artist responsible for this 3,300 sqft hallucination-provoking masterpiece is well-known local Street Artist GONZO247. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, GONZO247 said that he spent over a month (not to mention 250 cans of spray paint!!) on the wall. His work is vibrant, loud, colorful, and this is no exception. What I think I miss in this particular mural however, are those amazing throw-back references to the old-school graffiti tag style that are incorporated into the designs of many of his other works.
Unlike many Street Artists, GONZO247 is not a secretive guy. In fact, he's a very active part of the Houston community, and I don't just mean the Street Art community. He is well known as a teacher, collaborator, entrepreneur, and public figure. I mean, he has taught at Rice - "The Ivy League school of the South". Who, twenty years ago, would ever imagine a graffiti artist would be doing that??
According to an interview on travel site Visit Houston, GONZO247 has been operating in Texas for over 25 years. He is the founder, owner, and general advocate for the awesome Aerosol Warefare, an exclusive outlet for graffiti, outsider, and hip hop artists that, according to its manifesto, "blends art studio, exhibitions and urban art education into a vortex of creativity and energetic output".
On a personal note, I am intrigued to discover that the further I delve into Urban Art in Houston, the more I see that everything is connected in some way or another. The spider at the center of this carefully constructed spray-can web? Aerosol Warefare, without a doubt. I hope that I will discover the same kind of cohesion in other sectors as I continue to explore the city, but if not, I hope that this at least serves as a precursor to a Houston that is culturally and socially united.
Sounds like an interesting organization? It is! Go check it out, what are you still doing here anyway??
British-born arts blogger living in Houston, Tx. A mixture of Street Art, Fine Art, Installation, and anything weird and wonderful. Follow me if that sounds like your cup of tea.