Arts & Culture

Houston Street Cultures Unite To Break Stereotypes Through Art

Are Houston’s lowrider and graffiti scenes gaining more “street cred” as art forms?


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Walk into Shorty's Hydraulics in North Houston on any given afternoon and you'll be met with a number of sounds: grinding metal, the crackling of a welding stick, and Tejano music thumping. On this day, a shiny, copper-colored 1960s Chevrolet is hoisted several feet off the ground. It's a lowrider that's being fashioned with custom-designed chrome metalwork.

Sotero Villarreal, or "Shorty," is supplying a few of their masterfully painted cars for an event that may surprise some – an art installation at Discovery Green.

"It's a subculture just like graffiti is," says local street artist and muralist Mario Figueroa, Jr., better known around town as GONZO247. "And I see a lot of parallels between the subculture of lowriders fighting stereotypes and knowing who you are and what you represent through your vehicle. I see the parallel with the graffiti artist and a spray can."

Villarreal agrees.

"They keep showing movies with lowriders always being gangbangers or drug dealers, and so forth," he says. "So people seem to think that's what everybody is... and they're not. You got doctors, you got lawyers, you got lots of different people that are into lowriding."

On Friday, Figueroa will be creating a mural on the scene of the Discovery Green event while DJ Caps One spins music. The lowriders will there to show off their swagger, displaying the way their custom hydraulics let them lift, lower, rock and tilt – almost like they're dancing.

It's all tied to the Los Trompos art installation, the brightly-colored spinning tops that decorate the downtown greenspace.

"It's the beauty of the way arts organizations and artists can collaborate and come together that really makes this such a creative scene," says Barry Mandel, president of Discover Green.

In this case, they're taking what's traditionally regarded as "street culture" and bringing it into the mainstream to be respected as art forms. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. this Friday, January 29th.

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