Pop Culture

Time to Paint the Town Red, Plus Blue, Green and Everything In Between

Italian street artist Pixel Pancho channels his personal sci-fi universe when painting large-scale robot murals all over the world.
Italian street artist Pixel Pancho channels his personal sci-fi universe when painting large-scale robot murals all over the world. Photo by Retis/Flickr
Art pioneer GONZO247 has been busy assembling his dream team, and if you feel that electricity crackling in the air, it's because street art luminaries like Pixel Pancho (Argentina), Pepe Gracmor (Mexico) and Ben Johnston (Canada) are jetting in to H-Town for the third annual HUE Mural Festival.

"For us, a lot of people are finding out about quote unquote street art. We want to highlight local talent but also work with international talent. Heavy hitters," says Mario “GONZO247” Figueroa Jr., founder of video magazine Aerosol Warfare and the Graffiti and Street Art Museum (the nation's first graffiti museum). "We’re importing that global talent. Houston is a diverse city and we wanted to visually represent different cultures and art.

He's knee-deep organizing the Houston Urban Experience Mural Festival, inspired by Houstonfirst, lining up world-renowned artists and local faves like Shelbi Nicole, DeeJon and Jessica Rice. "I was so excited. Houston has like such awesome talent," says Figueroa.

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Pepe Gracmor painted this mural in Puebla, Mexico in 2014. Look for his trademark prehispanic style when he lays down paint during this year's HUE Mural Festival.
"Shelbi Nicole, she paints a mural, and down the street is an international star," says Figueroa, about the plan to feature both local and international talent when more than 100 artists transform blank walls in EaDo, downtown and the East End. "We want to create that catalyst, shake the globe, shake the snow globe. Let’s put all these artists together and let them interact and hopefully inspire each other."

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Local artist Shelbi Nicole is known for her large-scale, highly Instagrammable backdrops. We invited her back for Houston Press Artopia year after year (that's her work here), and now she'll be slinging paint during the Hue Mural Festival.
Photo by Doogie Roux
There's an exclusive launch party for insiders and artists on November 17, then it's rise and shine, because the festival kicks off November 18 with an estimated 190 hours of work, transforming exterior walls with airbrush, paintbrushes, rollers, wheat paste and stencils.

"People start painting on Saturday the 18th and then it’s basically every day. Most will start wrapping up on Friday, some like to be finishing up on Saturday [November 25]," says Figueroa. "Our goal is to really add more public art, so the goal is to always try to add walls that have never been added before, blank walls."

Originally scheduled for mid-October, this year's fest was pushed to November. "We had to postpone the mural festival because of the hurricane. It was too close," says Figueroa. "How can we have people come out and do murals when they don’t have a home to live in or are at in-laws?"

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GONZO247 painted this #HoustonStrong design on a wall at Kelvin and Amherst in Rice Village.
Photo by GONZO247
He says now is the perfect time. "It’s the beginning of the holiday season. It’s almost turning the page for Houston. We can kind of start to enjoy ourselves. Bring a pop of color."

Along with that renewed hope is a new community spirit for Houston, as evidenced by the #HoustonStrong mantra that's gone mondo viral. GONZO247's mural at Kelvin and Amherst spreads that message of positivity, showing that art can transform lives, and is being used in promotions for this year's mural fest (along with a jetpack wearing astronaut sporting spurs, paintbrush and pet armadillo).

Maps are being finalized and will soon be available at huemuralfestival.com. Everybody's invited to a free wrap party, scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving when we're all emerging from that tryptophan coma. DJ Z-Trip, "the godfather of mash-up," is the main act, with opening act DJ Buck Rodgers. The wrap party runs from 6 to 10 p.m. November 24 at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney.

The third annual Houston Urban Experience (HUE) Mural Festival runs November 18-25 at locations in EaDo, downtown and the East End, 832-748-8369, huemuralfestival.com, free.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney