Streets as Art

This weekend the streets of downtown Houston will become an artist's palette. Via Colori — the annual street painting festival begins tomorrow. Laurie Johnson has more.
In the bright, crisp gloriousness of the morning, Cynthia Pascal is busily blending pastels onto a concrete sidewalk.

She's smearing reds and purples together, as an image of a colorful, flowery Latina woman comes to life underneath her fingers.

Pascal is doing a demo for Via Colori on the sidewalk in front of Mission Burrito in Rice Village.

"It's very interactive. The energy you get when you have children around, when you have families around, when you have people walking by, when you have other artists sitting right next to you who are in the business and your competition, but also your friends, your peers. And it's really just a very energetic, warm, kind of joyful experience. And you feed off that vibe and it propels you to go for two days from ten in the morning till nightfall, to draw these huge art pieces. And it's a really great experience."

Most of the artists, like Pascal, work in other mediums. But they see this as an opportunity to have a little fun and give back to the community.

The festival benefits The Center for Hearing and Speech. Renee Davis is executive director. She says the center is a United Way agency. They operate on a sliding scale fee system so no one is turned away.

"The fundraisers that we have like Via Colori are how we bridge the gap between what we actually raise in fees for service and what we have to find out in the community."

The event is free to the public. The money comes from corporate sponsors, who pay to bring in the artists and decorate the streets.

"The artists begin their creations at ten o'clock and by five o'clock on Sunday they have to be done and it all goes away. It's just a memory after that point. So it's the act of the creation of the art and the interactivity between the artist and the public, not just his work in the gallery, that is the beauty of this festival."

Via Colori is just three years old in Houston, but is already the largest street painting festival in the nation. Nearly 200 artists are signed up this year.

The festival is this weekend and opens at 10am. It's at the intersection of Allen Parkway and Bagby.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...