Market Square park is the center of an epic art battle this weekend. Secret Walls is a 90-minute mural design competition, where teams compete to offer the best design. The artists likely haven’t worked together, and they have no idea what the theme for their work will be until they show up.

Founded in London in 2006, the competition bills itself as the world’s premier live illustration battle, having produced more than 1,000 shows across the globe. The 10 artists competing this year in Houston are Chaz from London Police, Dread out of Denver, Galo from Italy, Chicago’s Jake Merten and JC Rivera, Matt Gondek from Los Angeles, Mez Data from Austin, Brazil’s Studio FLOP, and Houston’s Coler and w3r3on3.

“The last one I did, they told us at the very last minute what the goal for the mural was,” says Erik Delrio, also known as the artist Coler. “But I think that element of surprise, and seeing it all come together is part of the fun.”

Coler is competing this year on a team with four other artists. They’ll face off against another team of five to create a mural eight feet tall and 20 feet wide. The event is sponsored by UP Art Studio and the Downtown District.

“This is a chance for artists to have some fun and compete for bragging rights,” says Elia Quiles, who, with her husband, Noah, owns UP Art Studio.

“It’s like the Fight Club of the graffiti world,” adds Noah. “It’s really a spectacular show.”

Coler points out that the artists have to work in black and white, so being able to communicate ideas and imagination is paramount.

“There’s really no room for error, you’re drawing what’s on your mind,” he says. Coler has been creating graffiti for 25 years and he says the concept of seeing art created in real time is a draw for the audience. “You’re seeing art in its rawest form,” he adds. “You’re watching artists devise a game plan and make it happen right there.”

A team of judges and the audience will decide the evening’s winning team of artists. After the competition, UP Art Studio will repurpose the murals to be displayed at music and art festivals. In addition to the live art competition, there will also be a breakdancing battle, an art market, food trucks, and live music from DJ BBC.

“People should come expecting a unique and fun experience,” Elia says. “It’s really going to be a great night filled with art.”

April 6, 6–10 p.m. Free. Market Square Park, 301 Milam St. More info at marketsquarepark.com.

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