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If you’ve spent any time exploring the urban jungle of Houston, there’s a good chance you’ve stood in admiration or snapped a photo in front of at least one of the public art installations scattered across the Bayou City. At the moment, though, it’s been hard to appreciate the vibrancy of the city while sorting through the world’s seemingly endless shades of gray.
That’s no longer the case in our city center, thanks to dedicated innovators at the Downtown Management District and UP Art Studio. The heart of Houston has been given a ravishing renovation with WindowWorks, 18 eye-catching window art displays in buildings on and near Main Street that are sure to brighten your day (literally). “It’s an inspiration to our office workers who are returning to downtown and seeing a very different version of it,” says Laurette Cañizares, the Downtown Management District’s events & public art manager. “It’s uplifting and inspiring for our residents who have weathered the entire six months down there and have seen the changes.”
Those familiar with the eye-catching mini murals, which have transformed traffic signal control cabinets throughout Houston, might already know of UP Art Studio. Dedicated to educating and inspiring communities through public art, the organization’s collaboration with the Downtown District—known for years for modernizing and maintaining many of the city’s treasured areas—was one that was sure to bring never-before-seen beauty to the community. When organization leaders began seeking out artists from across Texas last December, the original focus was on something similar to the mini mural program.
However, after Covid-19 rocked the city, staff went back to the drawing board and crafted WindowWorks, a complex collection of art that would breathe a little life back into the downtown streetscape. “We thought about how to take vacant and inactive windows and storefronts and use those as the canvas,” says Elia Quiles, co-owner of UP Art Studio.
WindowWorks ended up having a dual creative purpose: It was a way to make the buildings more attractive to potential developers and tenants as well as a way for people to safely adventure and be in community with others while staying socially distant. By selecting some of Texas’s most talented artists to fill these vacant spaces, the organizations have transformed empty, dreary displays stretching from Jefferson to Franklin streets into bases for expression, while also finding the creative key to healing and helping Houstonians. “I think that it’s sort of a natural way for people to engage,” Quiles says, “and public art is known to have mental health benefits, social benefits, and cultural benefits as well.”
If the trip down Main Street seems a bit far, Cañizares assures us that hopping on the light rail and riding down a stop or two is a great solution to scout out the installations without needing to break out your walking shoes. Or, if you’d rather view the installations from the comfort of your own home, paying a visit to UP Art Studio’s digital Mural Map will take you straight to pictures and details of each installation with a simple scroll.
Whether you go on an art scavenger hunt with friends, or visit the digital map at home with family, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to see some incredible art while connecting with people during a time when we need them most. “We shouldn’t stop socializing,” Cañizares says. “We should just do it from afar.”
More info at downtownhouston.org.