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Artists take to Houston street to help children with hearing loss

November 18, 2018

Columbian artist Camilo Gonzalez uses chalk to sketch a taco truck driving by an urban shopping center.

Gonzalez’s emerging artwork — one of hundreds of Texas-themed chalk murals lining the streets surrounding City Hall Saturday — is part of the Via Colori street painting festival, featuring 200 artists raising money for children with hearing loss and The Center for Hearing and Speech.

“I’ve always been interested in activating art and doing something else with it and not just art by itself,” Gonzalez said. “This is why I love it and it’s a good cause. I think we should try and replicate this [festival] in many other aspects.”

For this year’s Texas theme, Gonzalez said his image depicts Houston’s food culture and fast-paced environment. The taco truck can also represent the combination of working life and social life in the city, he said.

“I kind of like the different layers of the story of it,” Gonzalez said. “Right now, taco trucks are huge, but before it wasn’t - you didn’t want to go to a taco truck or you would only see them out in the suburbs or construction sights but now it’s a big thing.”

Gonzalez has participated as an artist every year in the festival since it first began 13 years ago. He moved to Houston from Bogota, Columbia 15 years ago to study digital media and photography at the University of Houston. He now works as a media arts and education manager at The Aurora Picture Show, a non-profit media arts center.

“There are not many platforms where we can come together and talk and make a big difference so that’s what I love about this [festival],” Gonzalez said. “We only have this once a year and you can give back to the community.”

Fernanda Gratton, a spokesperson for the Center for Hearing and Speech, said this is the center’s biggest fundraiser. She said the funds are important because the center recently expanded to see over 8,500 children a year.

“It is also a good way to give back to the community and invite everybody to be a part of something bigger,” she said.

Gratton said artists view creating the murals more as a performance since the chalk washes away quickly.

“Artists see it as performance art,” Gratton said. “Kind of when you go to a concert — you take some pictures, but you still leave with just the memories of that experience and how you felt there.”

Springwoods High School art teacher Rebekah Tee participates in the festival with her students every year. She said her students have fallen in love with it because they are not only building their portfolios but also helping others.

Tee said she wanted to go outside the box for her street mural this year. She is creating an image of native Texas celebrities and artists Carol Burnett, Willie Nelson, Dan Rather and Lee Jones all playing poker together. She also brought poker cards and chips so that the mural can be interactive.

Tee has seen many of her students return to the festival as adults, including one who was working on a mural next to hers.

“That’s the best feeling in the world because you want your students to surpass you,” Tee said. “If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing your job as a teacher.”

The festival continues 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday.

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