Sometimes street art serves as an antidote to blight. But can it also respond to gentrification?
That appears to be the case in Houston’s East End, where Angel Quesada, who goes by the moniker ARTKUNGFU, hopes to administer a sharp kick with his “Muertos Mural” on a facade of the Morales Radio Hall at 111 N. Ennis. The artwork will be launched with a public celebration 6-9 p.m. Thursday.
The building has long been the site of Houston’s first Hispanic-owned mortuary business, Morales Funeral Home, which coexisted there for years with the city’s first Hispanic-run radio station, KLVL-AM.
A press release explains that they wanted to “up the ante” in the barrio’s efforts to maintain its community identity, even as other businesses embrace the rebranding of the area as EaDo (East of Downtown).
“The new mural was created in reaction to a neighborhood witnessing its shifting landscape and being supplanted by newer 3 and 4 story gated luxury residential complexes,” the release says. Another mural that celebrates the Second Ward is coming soon to the building’s Navigation Street facade.
Quesada, who also painted the butterflies on flower tacos at the nearby Villa Arcos and the Aztec/Mexican Eagle image at Doña Maria, sees the new mural as “a conversation with Chicano muralist Leo Tanguma’s recently refurbished mural ‘Rebirth of our Nationality.’ ”
The central tree of life (arbol de vida) image, in the tradition of Oaxacan ceramic artisans, represents “being firmly planted in a temporal connection to the past and the vibrancy of what is to come.”
Well, maybe so long as “vibrancy” doesn’t mean a hipster’s townhouse.