HIDDEN GEM: Houston’s Mini Murals

With the help of local artists and the City of Houston, Up Art Studios is bringing art to neighborhoods all over Houston.

HOUSTON — On a brutally hot August morning, artist Santiago Perez found shade where he could as he mixed paint to put the finishing touches on his latest work.

“It’s about the colors of the Black community, the success of the Black community, the vibrancy of the Black community,” Perez said, explaining his mural.

Though the conditions were not ideal, he pushed through with the help of his wife.

“It’s great. I love it. I mean, this is this is the reason why I came to United States,” said Perez. “To become an artist.”

His canvas isn’t a traditional one. It’s a traffic signal control cabinet, the kind you see at intersections all over town. This one’s in Fifth Ward, right at I-10 and Waco.

“The people stop, they take pictures, they ask questions, you make friends,” Perez shared.

Typically, traffic signal control cabinets are dull and gray. But with the help of the City of Houston and local artists, UP Art Studio is turning them into works of art.

“Within the city of Houston metropolitan area, we’re almost at 400,” said Elia Quiles, who cofounded the studio with her husband. “Over time, it’s probably been close to 100 artists.”

UP Art’s original mission was to help graffiti artists make a transition from the street to the gallery. It coordinated several large-scale murals. But a few years ago, Quiles said they figured out smaller projects might just have a bigger impact.

“We’d seen this idea being done like all over the world and we just thought, ‘Why are we doing it here in Houston?’” she said. 

UP Art pitched a partnership to the City of Houston and the program’s been wildly successful.

If you want to sponsor a cabinet, visit the website for the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Click on Traffic Signal Control Cabinet Murals and fill out the form. There are a few layers of approval after hitting ‘submit.’

“That can vary anywhere from a month to six months,” said Quiles.

Then artists, like Perez, can get to work sharing their skill and vision all over Houston.

“That’s what I love about this project is being able to put art in communities that are often lacking it,” Quiles smiled.

To learn more about UP Art Studio, click here.


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