Students in the senior graphic design program at the University of Houston School of Art will soon be added to the growing list of artists making their mark on the city. They will join famed Houston graffiti artist Mario Enrique Figueroa Jr., artistically known as GONZO247, in a large-scale installation to beautify the Cullen Boulevard-I-45 underpass.
The project titled “Perspectives” will cover 22 pillars of the underpass with bright, colorful brush strokes and icons that symbolize the rich history of Houston’s Third Ward, Eastwood, EaDo and the University of Houston. Since Cullen and I-45 is a busy intersection, students were not allowed to use typography, an important element in graphic design. Instead, Gonzo encouraged them to step out of their comfort zones and rely solely on patterns and color that are big, bold and readable.
“We avoided any details that were too small to read,” said graphic design student Tamila Amanzholova, who brought the large brush strokes into the design. “We also added little icons for pedestrians to see and hopefully get interested in learning more about the history of the communities.”
In order to bring the “Perspectives” concept to life, students researched each community to come up with the colors and icons that illustrate their unique characteristics.
- Third Ward: blue circular shapes, referencing blues music and soul
- Eastwood: green rectangles, representing the tight-knit aspect of one of Houston’s first master-planned subdivisions
- EaDo: intersecting orange lines, emphasizing the community’s energy, bike trails and sporting events
- University of Houston: red hexagonal shapes, showcasing the hive-like network of UH’s diversity and synergy
“I never thought I would ever get to a point of collaborating with someone so significant in the community,” said Annette Wong, graphic design student who designed the icons. “Having Gonzo’s approval of our project lets me know we’ve done something right for the community.”
Gonzo’s private and public commission work, such as the famous “Houston is Inspired” mural in Downtown Houston, are vivid, colorful representations of the city and its diversity. He is the founder of Aerosol Warfare studio and The Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas.
“Growing up, I had access to one mural, and that was all I was able to see,” said GONZO247. “Now there’s so many in the city, and I just love the idea that artwork is up and available to inspire these students.”
The installation will start in mid-April and is expected to be complete by mid-May. Several stakeholders have joined University of Houston in this effort, including Houston councilmembers Robert Gallegos and Dwight Boykins; Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis; Fountain Residential Partners and Caliber Living, the developer and management companies for Gateway on Cullen; community members; the East Downtown (EaDo) Management District; the Texas Department of Transportation; and Sherwin-Williams, which is providing 55 gallons of paint at no cost.
“We are all working together to create something that will be accessed and be seen by so many people,” Gonzo added. “It’s a great way to represent a huge area and be able to visualize it through art. It’s a great space where we are all kind of crossing paths. I think it’s a beautiful place to put the artwork.”