Gators Applying Creativity to Community Initiatives
Art Helping Beautify Areas of Houston
By Mike Emery
The University of Houston-Downtown’s campus sits firmly in the heart of the city, but faculty, staff, students and alumni continue to impact communities throughout the region.
Members of the UHD Community have long been engaged in neighborhood clean-up efforts like the upcoming GatorServe on Jan. 18. More recently, Gators have been applying their creative talents to help beautify neglected areas of the city.
Alumna Anibeth Turcios serves as the deputy director for the Greater Northside Management District. Before graduating in December 2019 with a Master of Business Administration degree from UHD’s Marilyn Davies College of Business, she collaborated with the University's Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning. Through a grant from the Center, she led a project that added some much needed color to an area on North Main Street.
As part of the North Main Revitalization Through Art Better Block Project, Turcios enlisted the assistance of artist W3r3on3. The result is the mural “El Fruto de Una Bendicion” at 2300 N. Main Street. The project also received support from the Salvation Army, Bible Days and UP Art Studio (managed by fellow UHD alumna Elia Quiles).
The mural transformed a barren wall into a colorful cornerstone in the community. Its imagery features flower petals of various colors extending throughout the wall with a heart firmly planted in the center.
The efforts of Turcios and UHD have certainly paid off and were rewarded with recognition from the organization, Keep Houston Beautiful (KHB). In late 2019, KHB awarded UHD and the Greater Northside Management District an Honor of Recognition as part of the annual Mayor’s Proud Partner Awards (honoring ndividuals and organizations that beautify the city).
“Houstonians are starting to recognize the importance of artwork in our communities,” Turcios said. “Community members now see that artwork can overshadow graffiti, broken windows and other elements that diminish a neighborhood’s beauty. It’s also way to boost economic development in areas of our city as well.”
Although she has graduated, Turcios will continue to partner the Greater Northside Management District with UHD. On the horizon is another Better Block Project supporting “Art from Illegal Dumping,” which will create community artwork from junk (tires and other items) that litters the area. The District and CESL also will team up for a new mural titled “Tradition in the Northside.” Created by artist Cease, the mural will be located at 2503 Airline Dr. near the Farmer’s Market.
These projects complement other efforts from UHD community members, including a recent mural created by students at Jax Sports Bar advocating for homeless animals. That particular project also received support from the Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning.
According to Turcios, the University and the Center create a perfect nexus for community service, creativity and collaboration.
“UHD and the Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning offer students many opportunities to become involved in our city,” Turcios said. “These are opportunities to think outside of the box to create collaborations between the University, government entities, and local businesses to serve the community.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.