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Painting The Town: UHD Students Leave Their Mark on Houston Art Scene


By Paige Caldwell ('18)

Being an artist requires the courage to be vulnerable and put your work on display for the world to see, and hopefully enjoy. Vincent van Gogh asked the question, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

UHD art students Brenda Chapa and Bobby Ramos have once again courageously left their mark on the Houston art scene, and this time, it’s in honor of renowned artist van Gogh.

In the spring, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) brought together more than 50 masterworks by one of the most iconic artists in the history of western art. Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art followed four key stages of his career, from early sketches to final paintings.

In conjunction with MFAH, Houston restaurant Liberty Kitchen served up van Gogh inspired dishes at all of their locations, and the restaurant’s creative and development director, Carl Eaves, commissioned Chapa and Ramos to transform the Heights location’s famous rooster in the style of van Gogh’s paintings.

Chapa, a KIPP high school graduate, is a senior at UHD studying bilingual education with an art minor. From a very young age, she loved creating art and developed a passion for realism, a style used by van Gogh in his early work.

At the age of five, Chapa and her family moved from Mexico to the Westbury area of Southwest Houston. Chapa’s work has been displayed in the new Saint Arnold Brewing Company Beer Garden & Restaurant and UHD’s O’Kane Gallery. She’s also participated in the Via Colori Street Painting Festival three years and counting.

For Chapa, being a part of the burgeoning art community in Houston is a privilege.

“Houston is my home,” said Chapa. “It’s amazing to have my artwork on display at different places around town because I feel such a connection to this city. My goal is to start doing giant murals and really go big so I leave an impact.”

This past spring, Chapa began her first large-scale mural on a building near the intersection of Bellaire and Airport Boulevard.

UHD junior Ramos grew up in the Houston Heights and has seen the neighborhood flourish.

“I’ve been able to be involved with lots of projects in my neighborhood,” he said. I have a huge sense of pride for where I come from.”

As a youngster, Ramos helped build Donovan Park, but he didn’t stop there. Throughout his student years, he’s helped create multiple large-scale art pieces for the Heights running trail and much more. One of his most notable contributions is a giant work of art in the shape of a ball of yarn that appeared in Houston’s 2015 Thanksgiving Day parade. In addition to being skilled at working with large canvases, van Gogh is one of his favorite artists.

Both artists attribute a lot of their success to time spent in UHD’s Willow Street  Pump Station studio honing their craft.  The two have shared classes together for  over a year, and when the opportunity  came to work with Liberty Kitchen and the MFAH, they immediately thought of one another.

“Brenda is a very skilled painter and her color theory is great, which is why I like working with her,” said Ramos. “We definitely learn from each other.”

Editor's Note: Story reprinted from the lastest issue of UHD Magazine Fall 2019.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

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.