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Former East End Students Hope To Reunite For Mural Restoration

Community considers restored mural part of East End beautification.

There are lots of murals in the East End – about 25 of them. But this one is in a prime location: Right behind the popular Ninfa’s restaurant on Navigation Boulevard.

It’s called “Ventanas de Oportunidad” or “Windows of Opportunity.”

Mercedes Fernandez was a high school teacher in 2003 and led students in the project.

“I wanted to give them a sense of ownership of a part of the mural where they could express themselves,” Fernandez said. “So I decided to design streets with windows and doors. And that way, each one of the kids would get a window or a door.”

Inside one door is a man hugging his grandson. One window has books flying out of it; water is flowing out of another.

It took them almost a year to finish the 2,440 square-foot mural. Now, 11 years later, the Houston weather has left its mark on the piece. The paint has faded and some of the bricks are cracked.

Fernandez, now a full-time artist, said several members of the community have asked for the mural to be restored. And so she approached the Greater East End Management District, which provided funding for the original mural.

“I came here to look at it, and it looked like it needed to be touched up,” she said. “But I don’t have the (means) or, you know, I didn’t think of doing it myself because I’m trying to do my own art and support myself.”

This time the District is calling on the community to donate $15,000 for the project. The money is needed to rent scaffolding for about four months and to pay Fernandez and the former students who will return for the restoration.

Bridget Kramer with the East End District said murals give the neighborhood a sense of place and community, “and public art has been known to create that, and murals especially do that because they’re such a large form, and for most of our murals, they’re done by community members.”  

Jessica Gutierrez was the student who painted the window with the man and his grandson. She said it represents her father and her then-baby son.

“I did that because of the, you know, Latino heritage. For me it means more family, and you know, family sticks together,” Gutierrez said.

Back in the East End, some members of the community look forward to the restoration.

“A lot of the murals in this area attract people into the area,” said Anna Hernandez, co-owner of the Taqueria Dona Maria on Navigation. “We’ve had customers that come here into the restaurant, and they’re here because they’re touring all of the murals.”

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Artist Mercedes Fernandez and Bryan “Lee” Gutierrez, who helped paint the mural in 2003, want to restore it with the help of the East End community.

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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