Ancient Rome had its famous arches which supported architecture and civil engineering feats. In present day, we're quite familiar with a different type of structure: McDonald's golden arches. McDonald's' signature symbols and those oh-so tasty fries now adorn a wall in EaDo at 1538 St. Emanuel as part of a mural brought about by McDonald's Houston.
"We’re always looking for interesting ways to get involved in the community and partner with events happening in Houston. This allows us to work with a local artists and bring some color and flavor to our city," said David Glaser, a local owner/operator of the fast food franchise.
While the restaurant owners operate independently in their neighborhood marketing efforts with tactics like supplying back-to-school backpacks or partnering with local YMCA's, they band together as a group to tackle city-wide efforts.
"Each franchise organization is its own snowflake. They do things differently, and we come together as an association to look at things that are outside our [individual] market," Glaser said. "[These efforts] are investments we’ve made as a collective group. We always want to make sure people know that McDonald’s here and across the country are owned by local business people who take it very seriously. We look at what we can do with outreach to show we’re an active part of our community."
The mural nods to Houston culture with references to the city's streets and freeways, the skyline and astronauts. It employs the french fries and McDonald's arched logo, and it also displays the newest wave of fast food service technology including new ordering kiosks available inside restaurants, delivery through UberEats and the food chain's mobile app.
"We’re very much in a digital world. The way we communicate, learn and order things is in the palm of our hands. McDonald’s saw that as an opportunity. We can engage with our customers on every level. We have an awesome core of customers who visit us, but there are other ways to connect with them and bring in a modern experience," Glaser said.
To complete the art project, the team hired graffiti artist Mario E. Figueroa, Jr., aka GONZO247. He is the force behind some of Houston's largest graffiti installations, and his roster of work includes the City of Houston's Parks & Recreation department, Houston First, the Houston Dynamo, the Houston Zoo and Saint Arnold Brewery, just to name a few. He takes pride in adding art to the city scape.
"Anytime we have opportunities to bring color to city streets, that's a positive thing. There's only so much brown, brick and concrete you can take before it drives you crazy. There's more interaction with art and bright, vivid colors, and that brightens your day," GONZO247 said.
The mural took nearly two weeks to complete, and it didn't come without its hurdles.
"The weather is the biggest challenge. Because of the direction the wall faces, we get hit by the sun all the day. When you’re right in front of the wall, the heat reflects," GONZO247 said. "We take safety seriously, and we stay hydrated. We’re sweating faster than we drink water, and we look down the street and see huge storm clouds. We live and die by the Doppler radar. Everyday we check the Doppler, because that can make or break a production."
The city is coming upon the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, and the recent climate has been pocked by freezes, snow (which nearly never happens in our reaches of the country) and strangely low temperatures as we headed into our normally sultry summer months. Houston has flooded more times in the last four years than a basement with a burst pipe, but like a drag queen's nail, we've pressed on, just like GONZO247 and his artwork.
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GONZO247 expects the mural to remain standing for at least one year, and he encourages more companies to take the same lead as McDonald's Houston and bring art into the forefront. McDonald's agrees.
"This is our first foray into the world of art. I’m hopeful, as I know other owner/operators are, that this is a first step in opening a doorway that presents more opportunities for us to be involved," Glaser said. "When something like this comes along, we relish the opportunity to get involved."
Check out the mural at 1538 St. Emanuel.