The people of Houston’s East End recently mixed together some volunteers, artists, and paint materials and came up with a vibrant, visual dish: Turtle Soup.
Measured at 266 feet long, and 20 feet high, Turtle Soup is an eye-catching mural located near Eastside's Hidalgo Park (known around the neighborhood as “Mexican Park”) on JW Peavy Drive. The mural features various species of marine life — sea turtles, tropical fish, dolphins, even jellyfish — collectively swimming in front of a royal-blue backdrop.
The mural was painted by world-renowned graffiti artist Pilot FX (Adam Socie) with UP Art Studio. Painting took three weeks, right after Hurricane Harvey, with East End artist/designer Jesse Rodriguez and several artists from UP Art Studio in collaboration. Turtle Soup was commissioned by the Greater East End Management District (GEEMD), but Rodriguez consulted with several organizations and businesses about what the mural should visually represent.
“We started talking and I got a little bit of feedback from everybody on what they wanted to see, and the main thing was marine life,” says Rodriguez. “Everyone loves sea turtles and Nemo, so this is what we came up with.”
Before Rodriguez and his crew went to work, more than 300 volunteers came in — including veterans from nonprofit The Mission Continues and kids from YES Prep Public Schools — for two weekends to clean up the area and prime the wall. “This was everybody coming in and doing something,” says GEEMD president Veronica Gorczynski. “People wanna say, ‘Well, how much did it cost?’ This was a lot of ‘in kind’ at the end of the day, or people gave muscle, because muscle got a cost to it, right?”
According to Army vet and Mission Continues platoon leader Monique Rodriquez, Soup represents people coming together to add some colorful beauty to a part of town that isn’t regularly known for its breathtaking, imaginative visions.
“It really is beautifying the area, making the community realize that we care about it, and they should care about it too,” she says. “And it’s about enhancing it and, you know, caring about one another. You know, things were just rough. Gangs were a big problem here, and that’s no longer the case. It’s changing, and it’s projects like these that allow it to continue to change in that positive direction that we’re seeking.”
The creators and minds behind Soup are hoping that people will venture to the East End to not just visit this piece of public art, but stick around for the art and creativity that’s been popping up around the area. East End Studio Gallery, Canal Street Gallery, and Texas Art Asylum are just some of the nearby places showing off art to spectators, as well as inviting others to share and/or work on their creations. Rodriguez has just transformed a former YWCA in Magnolia Park into a community center and art gallery.
“The East End is a place where art happens,” says Gorczynski. “We want to support that, so we want you to come and look on the weekend and enjoy some of the beautiful pieces we have on the East End — and maybe even have a margarita or two while you’re visiting us.”