The mini murals that continue to proliferate the area are being used by one group to remind residents what is unique about their community.
“The Near Northwest Management District has sponsored 10 mini murals on traffic control cabinets as part of our branding efforts to identify and draw attention to the assets of our area – such as the White Oak Bike Trail and generous park and greenspace landscapes – that promote a healthy and active lifestyle,” said Eileen Egan, vice president of capital projects for the NNMD.
Egan said each of the 10 designs were selected to highlight features of the particular site where they stand.
One of them, a mural of a child looking through binoculars at Deep Forest Drive and West Little York Road across from J. Ruth Smith Elementary School, was recently completed by Armando Castelan, an HSPVA graduate who makes a living as an artist through his custom art and mural business.
“It’s my first mini mural, but I’ve helped with some others,” Castelan said. “Since this one was my design, I really wanted to paint it myself.”
Castelan had recently answered a call for artists from UP Art Studio, the organization that facilitates the mini mural project, and pitched a handful of designs.
For the binocular mural, Castelan said he was inspired by the surrealist paintings he loved as a youth, and also by the realist painter Norman Rockwell. Another panel of Castelan’s mural shows what the boy sees through his binoculars, a butterfly.
“I wanted a little bit of humor,” Castelan said. “I wanted to engage the viewer.”
Castelan said he started with his design by looking at photos and manipulating them in Photoshop. In this case he added the satchel and the background to a photo of a boy. He initially attempted using a grid to paint it on the box but ended up painting it freehand.
While he worked, some local residents stopped by to give their thanks. Others wanted his business card. Children from the nearby schools also stopped by to offer their opinions.
“Kids are always honest,” Castelan said. “They will tell you what they like.”
Castelan is in talks to do another mural in the series. The NNMD intends to bring 11 additional mini murals to the Near Northwest in phase 2 of the project.
Castelan just needs to find the time to fit it in.
“I’m very fortunate,” said Castelan, who has also done large-scale projects for the East End Foundation and the City of Baytown. “I try to make each project better than the last.”
Egan said Castelan’s mural is near five schools and White Oak Bayou, so the theme of children learning in nature was a great fit. The other sites in phase 1 of the project are: Antoine Drive at West Tidwell Road, Antoine at West Little York, Antoine at Victory Drive, Antoine at Long Creek Lane, T.C. Jester Boulevard at West Little York, T.C. Jester at West Tidwell, T.C. Jester at Pinemont Drive, Bingle Road at West Little York and Alabonson Road at West Little York.
“The mini murals bring bright colors and beauty to our intersections, and a little whimsy as well,” NNMD president Wayne Norden said. “We hope that these artworks make everyone’s days a little brighter and encourages all to investigate their options in the Near Northwest. This is a vibrant area and a great place to grow, live, work and learn.”