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Local Arts

Houston Mural Project Honors 20 Years Of Vanessa Guillén’s Life

A series of 20 murals honoring Vanessa Guillén — one for every year of her life — have been going up around Houston.

Courtesy of Alex Roman Jr.
A mural depicts a sillhouette of Vanessa Guillén in Army fatigues and the words “Justice for Vanessa Guillén,” at Taqueria Del Sol in Houston.

This month Vanessa Guillén would have celebrated her 21st birthday.

Guillén, a former U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood, went missing from the base on April 22, her disappearance garnering national attention and leading to questions about the base’s history. Her remains were found July 6, and Army officials said she was killed by a fellow soldier, who later died by suicide.

To remember her, artists here in her hometown of Houston worked on a series of 20 public murals — one for each year of her life.

Houston Public Media intern Maria Mendoza talked with one of the artists, Alex Roman — also known as Donkeeboy — about why it was important to commemorate her life.

MORE | Houston Mourners Pay Respects To Vanessa Guillén At Public Memorial


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Courtesy of Hosuton artist Clear
A mural depicts a sillhouette of Vanessa Guillén with a Army uniform and flowers on North Main Street in Houston.

What made you want to paint a mural of Vanessa Guillén?

I think for us it was because, she is from the neighborhood where I grew up and my parents lived there a long time. So I think it kinda hit home because of that. And we watched the story, and it had been a good while since that was happening, and hadn’t heard of any or mural at that time in Houston. And her being from here, we just felt like, you know we should do it.

How do you feel about how the Hispanic community has reacted towards Vannessa's untimely death?

I feel proud, because I feel like it’s definitely important for the Latino community to come together and just voice their opinions and fight for whatever justice can be had.

MORE | In Response To Vanessa Guillen's Death, Legislation Would Make Military Sexual Harassment A Crime

Courtesy of Sylvia Blanco
A mural depicts a sillhouette of Vanessa Guillén with red roses in her school soccer jersey.

How do you hope the mural impacts the community?

I think it serves as a meeting ground. There’s a lot of offerings that have been left there, and I think it’s just a reminder, as all of them are, of the things that happen. But also I hope that it’s somewhat empowering and it influences or inspires people to speak out.

Can you tell me more about the process?

I offered to help facilitate 20 murals. Obviously there’s more than that. And people have created on their own without any help from us. But we’re on No. 20 at the moment. The kids that I teach art to from the Break Free Hip Hop School, they’re doing the 20th one. And then Franky Cardona, my mom, myself and Fernando Aragon (also known as Noke) painted another one.

When you found out so many people appreciated the mural wall, what did you think?

You know what, to be honest, it really wasn’t about me or my mom creating the mural. It was more about just seeing people come together again. That was a proud moment because of that.

Have you done any similar artwork?

Yeah, my mom and I painted a George Floyd mural in third ward. One of George Floyd’s friends contacted us. His name is OG Mugs. And he asked for us to paint a mural there, and we donated the mural.

What ways can artists help fight injustice using art?

By creating images that will allow people to share them, and use them as a form of protest.

A mural depicts a sillhouette of Vanessa Guillen , with the words “Cuantos mas sin Justicia” -- "How many more without justice?"
A mural depicts a sillhouette of Vanessa Guillén , with the words "Cuantos mas sin Justicia" — “How many more without justice?”

Where to see all of the Vanessa Guillén murals in Houston, with links to more artwork:

  1. Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    Taqueria Del Sol
    8114 Park Place Blvd.
    Houston, TX 77017
    @donkeeboy, @donkeemom
  2. Noke
    10560 Fuqua St.
    Houston, TX 77089
  3. Roger Trevino
    1301 S. Post Oak
    Houston, TX 77045
  4. Franky Cardona
    25602 1-45 North
    Building C
    Spring, TX 77386
  5. Icebox
    7405 Canal St.
    Houston, TX 77011
  6. Obey Khriz
    1006 N. Wayside Dr.
    Houston, TX 77011
  7. Mariah Martinez
    6734 Canal St.
    Houston, TX 77011
  8. Mark Deleon
    915 Snover St.
    Houston, TX 77007
  9. Danvincci
    702 S. Shaver St.
    Houston, TX 77506
  10. Saxet Notsuoh
    1401 Cullen Blvd.
    Houston, TX 77023
  11. Israel Rodriguez
    4830 N. Main
    Houston, TX 77009
  12. Ryan Leal and Diego De Leon
    Traveling (painted on the back of a truck)
  13. Vanessa Sanez
    1711 Westheimer Rd.
    Houston, TX 77098
  14. Clear
    2517 N. Main
    Houston, TX 77009
  15. Sylvia Blanco
    6500 Harrisburg Blvd.
    Houston, TX 77011
  16. Art by Adrian
    317 York St.
    South Houston, TX 77587
  17. Gilbert Zepeda, Sagradio Zepada and Margaret Rose Sanchez
    159 E. Edgebrook Dr.
    Houston, TX 77034
  18. Franky Cardona, Noke, Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    1301 Virginia Ave.
    South Houston, TX 77587
  19. Chris Castro
    111 N. Ennis St.
    Houston, TX 77003
  20. Break Free Hip Hop School
    1018 Shaver St.
    Pasadena, TX 77506
    (In progress)