Uplifting the most historic communities has been a top priority for City of Houston leaders. The latest endeavor involves selecting local artist David Maldonado to commission murals at the Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center.
The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs announced the project, which will cover the entrance of the renovated facility. It is scheduled to be completed by July this year.
“Successful civic art projects make big impact on communities in numerous ways that support civic pride, community well-being, individual well-being, intergenerational connection, and public safety, among other positive impacts,” according to MOCA Director Necole Irvin.
Irvin said the purpose of the mural is to create a lively and engaging atmosphere at the center, which will welcome residents and visitors to the facility with imagery inspired by their neighborhood and community character.
“Our program seeks recommendations for community representatives from the councilmembers whose district projects are in. In this case, Councilmember Karla Cisneros’ office recommended Rene Porras, who is dearly beloved by the Denver Harbor community and has been active with muralists from the neighborhood in the past,” she said.
This commission is being funded through the Civic Art Program via Houston’s Civic Art Ordinance, through funds assigned to the Houston Health Department, based on capital improvement projects at or on HHD facilities. These funds can be used for project costs related to new commissions for the city’s Civic Art Collection, conservation on collection artworks, as well as management of the collection.
Maldonado and his team developed the mural concept proposal that was recommended to the city for commissioning through the selection process overseen by Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), who Irvin said the division works very closely with on all art commission projects.
“Because of his sensitivity to the character, nature, and history of the Denver Harbor community in his mural proposal, David’s concept was strongly recommended for commissioning, which the city accepted,” she said.
A panel was assembled for the selection process, which consisted of three arts professionals, one community representative and one HHD department representative who together viewed three artist presentations of proposed concepts and determined which of the concepts was most suitable for the Denver Harbor community and the MSC environment best.
The contemporary artworks of Maldonado, a Houston-based artist, is inspired by the traditions of Mexican American folk art, storytelling, street culture, and the Mexican muralist movement. He approaches public art as a common place shared by all where all bring and find a sense of identity, Irvin said.
“He has developed a distinctive artistic style that speaks to diverse people and ties together patterns, textiles, graphic and organic elements,” she said.
Maldonado has exhibited his work professionally since 2016. He recently created more than a dozen artistic collaborations with major brands. He has created nearly 20 public artworks, primarily murals – including two in the past year with UP Art Studio.
“When I produce creative work, whether it's on canvas, in public spaces, or other formats, my purpose is to create a dialogue with people,” Maldonado said in a recent statement. “My artwork is about connecting with my community – sharing my voice, culture and experiences in accessible images that other people can recognize themselves and find meaning in.”
Irvin said MOCA, HHD, and HAA worked with Maldonado and his team to pursue opportunities to gather feedback on his mural concept from the Denver Harbor community.
“Together we hosted two community engagement events at the Denver Harbor MSC. HHD was instrumental in this effort and suggested we meet with the seniors who, through HHD programs, visit the MSC daily,” she said.
“This was fortuitous, as most are long-time Denver Harbor residents who know the community well and have seen it evolve over generations. Their feedback was collected in conversation and through written comments.”
Irvin also said that feedback was considered by Maldonado in adjustments he made to his mural design during his design development. “In this way, we hope that direct input from DH residents helps the artist to develop artwork that is thoroughly responsive to their communities and can truly tell the story of the character and history of the Denver Harbor area,” she said.
“MOCA believes that encouraging artists to pursue this kind of responsiveness to community is essential for the success of new art commissions in Houston neighborhoods and ultimately makes big impact in numerous ways that support civic pride, community well-being, individual well-being, intergenerational connection, and public safety, among other positive impacts.”