When she was asked to execute Houston's largest mural, artist C. Finley took her signature swirl of shapes and colors and blew it up at a larger-than-life scale. Titled Sky Dance, the work-in-progress depicts a 230-foot-wide scene of three Houston Ballet dancers jeté-ing across the north side of 1415 Louisiana St.
"I just want people to get a hit of life as they pass by," she says.
WEDGE Group, the investment firm that hired Finley, originally planned to build a second tower that never materialized, leaving the artist to work with this blank, monumental canvas overlooking a parking lot. It's a story reflective of the urban reality of Houston's changing downtown, which, over the last century, was largely gutted of historic structures and paved over for office buildings and plenty of surface lots. Case in point: In 1920, much of the current grid had been lined with massive Victorian mansions; by the 1970s, a desolate expanse of concrete dominated aerial photographs of the city.
We've started to atone for our past development sins, most notably with green space like Discovery Green, expanded light rail, and a renewed interest in urban living that's pushed Houston's core in a more livable, walkable, and beautiful direction. Sky Dance is actually an extension of the Downtown District's ongoing Art Blocks initiative, which aims to smooth over the city's rough patches using public art.
For her contribution, Finley first ventured to the fifth floor of the adjacent parking garage and used a powerful, 6,000 lumen projector to cast the outline of the dancers on the surface of the WEDGE Tower. Then, using two hydraulic boom lifts, she teamed up with a group of contractors—workers who usually serve as window washers—to slowly paint all 30,000 square feet of the mural. Leaves and other debris have gotten caught in the paint and the lift has stalled more than once, but the electric blue background has progressed quickly.
Finley hopes to complete the project by mid-April (weather permitting) so that the "undulating colors" of the leaping ballerinas will feminize the static gray, brown, and black aesthetic seen everywhere downtown. "This is something that you can take in at 35 mph," she says proudly, gesturing to the mural looming above.