Residents of Timbergrove and beyond expressed shock about the Sunday night defacement of a mini mural featuring Nobel Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai at T.C. Jester Boulevard and Ella Boulevard. The mural, painted by artist Jessica Padilla and funded by Houston Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen, was just completed in February.
An advocate for female education in her native Pakistan, Yousafzai survived an assassination attempt when she was 15 years old and went on to promote and support the right to education.
“(I) saw that (Monday) morning,” Mitzi Longoria wrote on the Timbergrove Manor Facebook page. “So sad. I work across the street and the girl artist worked all day for weeks painting the mural.”
Padilla, who learned of the graffiti when contacted by The Leader on Monday, started restoring the mural by painting over the vandalism on Tuesday morning. She also reached out to UP Art Studio, a group that partners with community sponsors to paint mini murals on utility boxes around Houston.
“I’m not surprised this happened,” Padilla said. “Just disappointed.”
Once she finishes restoring the mural, Padilla said it will soon get a clear coating. Clear coating will make the surface easier to clean in the event of future graffiti.
“I got lots of positive feedback,” Padilla said. “I wasn’t able to finish because it wouldn’t stop sprinkling and the paint was starting to run, but I’ll be back to finish sometime this week.”
Cohen, the Houston City Council member for District C, funded the Yousafzai mural and 19 other mini murals throughout District C with her 2018 Council District Service Fund. Cohen said maintaining the mural is part of the contract and that her office is committed to seeing it was kept up.
The irony is that Cohen wanted a positive message on an area mural because last year a traffic control box in the Timbergrove neighborhood, at T.C. Jester and 11th Street, was vandalized with Islamophobic hate speech.
“It’s so discouraging when something like this happens,” Cohen said. “We’re trying to do the faces of women around District C.”
The focus is in response to the underrepresentation of women in public art nationwide, which is around 8 percent, according to Cohen.
Cohen said Yousafzai joins Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan and Eleanor Tinsley on Houston’s mini murals and that people had been respectful of those boxes. Murals featuring Barbara Bush, Lady Bird Johnson, Kathy Whitmire, Annise Parker and female Supreme Court justices also are planned.
Cohen said the intersection is hard to monitor 24 hours per day but that authorities were aware of the defacement. She hopes the mural will be appreciated for its spirit of peace and equality.
“We are a city of diversity and respect,” Cohen said.