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Arts InSight

Video: Mini Masterpieces Popping Up All Over Houston

Mini masterpieces are springing up throughout Houston’s neighborhoods.


As Houstonians drive around in bumper to bumper traffic, many drivers have started noticing small works of art popping up around traffic intersections. Adding a little more art to the city of Houston, artists are using the metallic structures known as traffic control boxes as their canvases for a project called Mini-Murals.

Working with the City of Houston and Fresh Arts, UP Art Studio owners Noah and Elia Quiles piloted this project and are also coordinating the city's Mini-Murals program, aimed at bringing art to unexpected places throughout Houston’s neighborhoods. Debbie McNulty, Director of the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs, said, "Public art is really important to the overall culture and vibrancy of the city. Cities are competing for residents, for businesses, for talent in ways they have never had to before. Having a great quality of life…art is really a big piece of that."

While the Mini-Murals program is working to bring art out into communities that may be void of artwork, it is also meant to deter graffiti. McNulty says, "So as a graffiti deterrent tool it definitely works; it's been well-documented in other cities and locally, looking at the first 100 boxes that were painted, there was a single instance of a tag on a mural box versus non-stop tagging on unpainted boxes, so I think that it's proven that putting investment in art versus painting out graffiti is a win."

Some of the artists in the program have become known for their graffiti art over the years, including Mini-Murals artist, Pilot FX, who says, "Public art is important to me, it's always been important to me. I mean I grew up painting graffiti and putting stuff in the public eye whether they wanted to see it or not. The opportunities I've had to actually put stuff in and spend the time and effort that I like to do dramatically change the way that I paint, and the subject matter of that I present." Pilot FX and Israeli-born artist, Anat Ronen have created their own boxes as well as collaborating on a few together. Ronen says, "Our themes are very much alike, but our mediums are different, so he can complement me and I can complement him and so it became a good thing to collaborate together on." Ronen paints with brushes while Pilot FX uses spray paint.

Ronen captures the heart of the Mini-Murals initiative saying, "This project is really important because it goes places that art really doesn't seem to belong there. Then when we do it, it suddenly transforms the space completely and brings art to those who have probably never seen before."

This video segment is from Arts InSight, which airs every Friday night at 8:30 on Houston Public Media TV 8.