Mini Murals Take Over Houston

From eyesore to eye candy: Mini mural project turns unsightly traffic control boxes into works of art

Mini mural project turns unsightly traffic control boxes into art

Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, 2:12
This box features 47-layers stencil artwork by artist 2:12. Photo by Mini Murals/Facebook
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
The box by artist w3r3on3 at West Fuqua and White Heather Dr.   Photo by Mini Murals/Facebook
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Mr D 1987
 A colorful abstract by Mr D 1987, located at Holly Hall and Knight. Photo by Mini Murals/Facebook
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Anat Ronen
One of Anat Ronen's murals at South Gessner and Creekbend. Photo by Mini Murals/Facebook
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Wiley Robertson
A colorful box by Wiley Robertson at West Orem and Croquet St. Photo by Mini Murals/Facebook
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, 2:12
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Mr D 1987
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Anat Ronen
Houston, Mini Murals, July 2015, Wiley Robertson

Taking art outside the gallery, Mini Mural: Beyond the Box is painting the town's drab streetscapes Technicolor with traffic-stopping visuals. The project, a collaboration between UP Art Studio and 13 local artists, aims to transform unsightly traffic signal control casings into head-turning public art.

Artwork from the pilot phase of the low-cost, high-visual venture began cropping up in June with new installations hitting the streets through September 19.

Artwork from the pilot phase of the low-cost, high-visual venture began cropping up in June with new installations hitting the streets through September 19. 

The manifestations of public sculpture, usually 58 inches tall, 44 inches wide and 27 inches deep, are sprinkled throughout Houston. A bold and colorful abstract box by artist Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau is located at Holly Hall and Knight. A box by artist w3r3on3, inspired by a famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that," is at West Fuqua and White Heather Drive.

Anat Ronen’s camouflage-themed traffic signal box, found at the intersection of Willowbend Boulevard and West Bellfort Street, is a nod to Council Member Larry Green’s “Klean it up, Green it up” campaign.

Other participating artists include 2:12, Alex "Zu" Arzu, Ana Maria, Dual, Gabriel Prusmack, Jessica Guerra, Lee Washington, Pilot FX, Shelbi-Nicole and Wiley.

The majority of the boxes — 26 total, with five more on the way — can be found in Green’s District K, which is located in the southwest part of the city, mostly between Interstate 610 South Loop, Texas State Highway 288, Beltway 8 and U.S. Route 59.

The Washington Avenue Arts District boasts one box and Council Member Jerry Davis’ District B will soon feature a box as well.

More fundraising

UP Art Studio founder Elia Quiles has high hopes of keeping the project going beyond the pilot program. She tells CultureMap that next up on the agenda is more fundraising.

“We’re hosting an event at Silver Street Studios on September 19. It will close the pilot phase as well as kick off the artist open call via Houston Arts Alliance, and also kick-off our capital fundraising campaign that has a goal of raising enough funds for 100 boxes in 2016."

With a cost of around $2,500 per box for artist fees, supplies, equipment, project management fees, marketing, documentation and technology integration, the project is economically appealing compared to many public art installations that typically have a price tag of up to six figures.

Even Mayor Annise Parker is a fan, proclaiming today Mini Murals Day in Houston.

With approximately 2,400 traffic signal control cabinets in Houston alone, more funding is crucial. "We hope to keep this an ongoing program for as long as possible but will depend on the funding that we can secure," says Quiles.

Already on board with the project are the Department of Public Works and Engineering, the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Houston Arts Alliance, Brays Oaks Management District, Five Corners Management District and Fresh Arts, who have all partnered in the program.

The Houston Zoo has sponsored the first box outside of the pilot phase, which will be completed in the coming weeks, with several other organizations and districts expressing interest.

Even Mayor Annise Parker is a fan, proclaiming today Mini Murals Day in Houston.