The place to be this weekend and throughout the next week? Houston’s streets, where the second annual HUE Houston Mural Festival is bringing together over 100 artists, both local and international, to make the city's walls a whole lot brighter.
Starting this Saturday, all participating HUE artists will have seven days to complete their murals at 16 designated walls across town—grouped into five so-called "Epic Centers"—from the Northside to the Second Ward, Montrose to Midtown. Throughout the week, members of the public are invited to come out and watch as these walls are covered with colorful murals. But while every walls’ transformation is eagerly anticipated, one space was simply too tantalizing to wait for—a place that offered a unique opportunity.
“We have an underground parking garage,” explains Gonzo247, founder of both HUE and street art collective Aerosol Warfare, who's more formally known by his given name, Mario Figueroa, Jr. This isn't just any old garage, he explains. “[It's] three levels of a parking garage, all underground.”
It's here that the Houston Wall of Fame Part II, painted across all three levels, will be revealed at the HUE kick-off party tomorrow from 8 to 11:30 p.m., for which you can purchase tickets online and the location of which will be sent to ticket-holders in advance of the event.
Thirty-one local artists were informed of the secret underground location ahead of time and tasked with clandestinely filling the garage's concrete walls with color. It was a first-come, first-serve free-for-all as the artists descended upon the garage's every wall, nook, cranny and pillar.
“Its fun. Like being a part of something when we’re all down there,” said Houston-based artist Jessica Rice. “We bring music and everyone stops to go around the different pieces." Rice, still daunted and excited for the festivities to come—mostly because she had yet to find out her individual mural location—was still busy filling up her underground piece when we spoke with this week. She’d picked a pillar of her own, inspired by the subterfuge of it all.
“Previously you could only go at night and couldn’t tell anyone the location,” Rice said, “so there’s a little bit of a narrative in (my mural), of it being kept a secret.” Rice emerged onto the city's mural scene in 2012, having previously worked only on commission work in a studio setting, and quickly vaulted into the voracious street art arena.
During last year's inaugural festival, curators—including Gonzo—selected the artists as a way of maintaining fairness. But this year, the previous HUE participants got a vote too. “I was nervous we didn’t do this process last year. I had one curator kind of choose me,” said Rice. “I’ve been really humbled how my work has been accepted.”
While the line-up of local mural artists including Nicky Davis, Katsola, Zenfull and Black Cassidy was announced towards the end of September, the international artists weren’t released until recently. And even then, only a portion of what’s to come can be seen on the HUE website.
“We have some international returners,” Gonzo said. “Part of the festival is to bring in new international talent, people who haven’t been in Houston before, then we can start rotating. And locally we had a great group. A lot of last year's locals are in again."
The effect of last year's HUE festival was instantaneous and infectious. Artists wanted in on the fun, while an increasing number of business owners want in on their art. This year's HUE mural wall locations are mostly located in EaDo and the East End, a systematic approach undertaken, Gonzo explained, to fill in gaps across the city where no murals yet exist.
“Last year, we added 20,000 square feet of wall space," Gonzo said, "and this year we are probably adding another 20,000. And since most of the art is staying from last year—roughly 98 percent—we are adding more color to the streets."
HUE Mural Festival, October 15–22, free. Guided tours led by Gonzo247 available throughout the week at HUE headquarters, 2219 Canal St., $40 per person. HUE kick-off party, location TBA, October 15, 8–11:30 p.m., $80.