Students Create New UHD Campus Mural
‘Aztek Revival’ Aimed at Inspiring Current, Future Gators
By Mike Emery
The second floor of the University of Houston-Downtown’s historic One Main Building has long been a site for student interactions. Although the area is bustling with activity, some of its walls have remained relatively art free until now.
A new mural created by students … for students… now occupies a wall on the north side of the floor—just around the corner from Student Activities. The sprawling artwork takes its cues from Aztec/Mesoamerican patterns with elements of nature and animals interwoven with contemporary icons.
The work was made possible through the course “Special Topics in Studio Art: Mural Design and Creation” taught by Fine Arts lecturer Beth Secor. Students submitted designs for consideration, then collaborated on the mural’s creation during the semester.
“Before they developed their designs, we brainstormed. I asked them what they thought of when they thought of UHD,” Secor said. “We made a list that included things like diversity, downtown, the bayous, and the gator. Artists used some if not all of these items as inspiration.”
Designs generated in the class were exhibited for UHD’s student body, who voted on one to be transformed into a mural. The selected design, titled “Aztek Revival,” was created by student Angel Quesada.
Quesada, a noted local muralist, employed iconography similar to that used by ancient North American cultures and integrated colorful imagery that is familiar to students—items such as video game controllers, recreational games, cell phones, headphones, the UHD logo, the gator mascot and the historic One Main Building.
The design depicts UHD as a temple and incorporates symbolic pictures such as a knife (signifying the knife of the mind that can cut through the darkness and fog); and a tree that grows knowledge.
“It’s a variegated design,” Quesada said. “It addresses something that’s hopefully relatable to students and presents imagery that challenges them. I call it ‘edutainment.’ The audience can learn by stopping to observe a piece of artwork, or at least have questions arise. In this piece, there’s a narrative … and it’s a narrative that is connected to the cultural identities of these students as it is to mine.”
Quesada and his classmates are proud that the mural is more than just a class project. It’s now a permanent part of UHD’s campus, and it will captivate students who frequent the One Main Building’s second floor.
Teamwork, Secor said, was essential to the success of this project. Every member of the class played a role in bringing the mural to life. The creation of the mural was a collective effort that brought out every participating student’s respective talents. The mural’s creation was an organic process with students contributing to its creation.
The collaborative aspect of this project will help prepare these students for creative endeavors they will undertake as professional artists. And, the finished product provides them with an incredible work of art that can be included in their respective portfolios.
“At UHD, we provide students with career building skills,” Secor said. “This project provided our student artists with insights on the collaborative process involved with creating a public art piece. It also offered a new canvas for these students … one that will continually reach new audiences for years to come.”
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.