The towering skyscrapers, grid of one-way streets and miles of sunless underground tunnels give a certain nod to the hard hustle which helped build this city. After all, if you can make it here among the endless freeways (and their endless construction) and sky-high temperatures, you can find success just about anywhere. But despite this hard-as-nails grit we Houstonians are known for, the city occasionally surprises us with art that showcases a softer side filled with verve, color and spontaneity. That type of artistic touch is the focus for this weekend’s Secret Walls X Houston exhibition, taking place at Market Square Park on Saturday from 6 - 10 p.m., thanks to a partnership between the Houston Downtown Management District and UP Art Studio.
Now in its third annual appearance, the event will bring together ten artists split into two groups who will go head-to-head in a live art competition. Armed with black markers and black acrylic paint, international as well as local artists will have 90 minutes to create murals on two walls, each measuring 20 feet wide by eight feet tall. In addition to the live art competition, spectators will enjoy a breakdancing battle, an art market, food trucks and live music from DJ BBC.
The teams will consist of Chaz from London Police, Dread (Denver), Galo (Italy), Jake Merten (Chicago), JC Rivera (Chicago), Matt Gondek (Los Angeles), Mez Data (Austin), Studio FLOP (Brazil) and Houston artists Coler and w3r3on3.
Don't sleep on this artwork installation, though, as it won't be around for very long, at least not in the 77002 zip code. Just as soon as the spray paint dries, it will all be dismantled. Fret not, art lovers, as the work created will have plenty of viewing time when organizers will repurpose the murals to be displayed at music and art festivals across the globe after its brief debut in the Bayou City.
“Secret Wall is the Fight Club of the illustration world. You know it’s there, but it’s really not there,” said organizers Elia and Noah Quiles of UP Art Studio. “We have judges, and the audience gets to vote for their favorite. Sometimes the artists get cheeky and act up. It’s a fun, high-energy event.”
For an art form that was once looked at as a public nuisance, Houston has adopted civic art as a way of beautifying the area, bordering on giving our city an unmistakeable identity. It's the municipal equivalent of a fingerprint - a unique identifier solely belonging to one place. Look no further than the overwhelming adoration of the “Be Someone” mural on Highway 45 or the multitude of utility boxes throughout the city, which is a task facilitated by UP Art Studio as well.
In attempt to educate the public about the difference between graffiti and civic art, Secret Walls Founder Terry Guy and UP Art Studio will host School Walls, a program that uses the structure and rules of Secret Walls to nurture the budding artistic talent in our city’s elementary aged children the day before the mural duel. Through the program, students from Burbank Middle School will learn about the negative impacts of graffiti and vandalism while also learning that Secret Walls produces the thrills that graffiti artists seek, in a spectated, legal space.
“Everybody thinks of graffiti in a negative concept. We give these young individuals a crash course in how to do modern art and let them know they don’t have to do it in the streets,” said Mr. Quiles.
Ms. Quiles feels that arts programs can nurture and fuel young minds, which inspires the organization to continue in its stride.
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“We think it’s important. It’s vital to the fabric of the community, and it’s civic pride for civic art.,” she said.
“Graffiti saved my life,” she said. During a TED Talk, the group spoke “about a tagger who developed their skill and nome de plume and achieved the principals of art. They juxtaposed art and scale and shading and foreshadowing. If you stick with graffiti long enough, you’ll become an artist. You learn the principals of art as you do this.“
Even if it's just for a few hours, we can't wait to see the beauty that results from this collaboration.