Art is everywhere here in Houston, and lucky for us, much of it is available to view for free! The Bayou City has fully embraced its status as a center for culture and diversity, and one of the ways that’s apparent is through the plethora of public art lining the streets of Downtown. From colorful murals to creative sculptures, there’s no shortage of funky features in this neighborhood and a great way to check them out is with a self-guided art tour. Head out on foot, grab a bike or take the METRORail and get ready to be wowed!
We suggest starting your journey at Sky Dance, Houston’s largest mural! Painted on the side of 1415 Louisiana by artist C. Finley, the colorful mural depicts three Houston Ballet dancers and celebrates Houston's arts and culture. Go ahead, strike your best mid-jeté en avant as you admire this massively breathtaking piece.
Next stop, Avenida Houston!
Swing by The Lake House at Discovery Green for some grub on-the-go and check out Synchronicity of Color - the vibrant art boxes created by University of Texas professor, Margo Sawyer. Settle down along Avenida and soak up the kinetic sculpture that is Wings Over Water. Standing 30 feet tall and spanning 70 feet wide, the structure represents our diverse population and the idea that people flock to Houston from across America and beyond.
Done with lunch? Let’s keep it movin’!
The next sculpture on Avenida de las Americas is Discovery Green’s most popular artwork - it’s also considered one of the city’s greatest treasures. Monument au Fantôme, meaning “Monument to the phantom” or “imaginary city” in French, is a large, free-form red, white and blue sculpture created by internationally-known 20th century French sculptor, Jean Dubuffet. The seven individual forms that make up the piece represent different features of the city such as a church, a dog and a tree.
Make your way down McKinney for the artwork next on our list. As you approach The Shops at Houston Center you’ll notice a series of six eye-catching murals covering the walls. Created by So-Cal based Pandr Design Co., the boldly colored murals feature fun phrases like “Hey Y’all”, “Made in Texas” and “Houston Love”. What better way to document your trip Downtown than posing in front of a “Smile, y’all are in Houston” mural?!
Once you’ve wrapped up your Instagram photoshoot, head toward Main Street, cross Main Street Square, turn around and look up! You’ve made it to the next stop, Main Street Marquee. Commute is rendered in local artist Sarah Welch’s signature comic book style and depicts two women sitting back-to-back on a commuter train. The piece serves as both a nod to everyday life in the Bayou City and a metaphor for the power books have to transport readers through time and space. The marquee art rotates throughout the year, so make sure you stop by before Commute is gone!
Our last destination is the Historic Market Square District. Travel up Main Street to Travis and you’ll find yourself at one of #DTHTX’s most recognizable walls, the Houston Is Inspired mural. Located at the corner of Preston and Travis, the mural was created by local graffiti artist GONZO247 [aka Mario E. Figueroa, Jr.]. According to the artist, the pattern is made up of abstract butterfly wings which reflect the energy and life brought to the city by the many cultures that co-exist here.
Head across to Market Square Park for our final few pieces on the tour. You can’t visit this neighborhood park without noticing the 25-foot steel and wood sculpture that is Points of View. Located at the base of the dining trellis near Niko Niko’s, the sculpture was created for the park in 1991 by Texas artist, James Surls. Other iconic pieces of the park include the mosaic fountain and benches and, of course, the gargoyles. The mosaics were created specifically for this site by Malou Flato and features ceramic tiles hand-painted by the artist that evoke the feel of Market Square during the late 19th and early 20th century. The gargoyles celebrate Market Square’s history with commemorative messages and photography by Richard Turner and Doug Hollis, and are regarded as one of Downtown’s most treasured landmarks.
And that’s it, you’ve finished the tour! Just remember that was only a taste of the public art Downtown has to offer. For a complete list, check out Houston Arts Map. We want to know how your tour goes, share your fun by tagging us @DowntownHouston with the hashtag #ArtBlocksHou!