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HSPVA student joins chalk artists in transforming Houston’s streets into a gallery of art

2013 November 21
by HISD Communications

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, High School for the Performing and Visual Arts ninth-grader Michael Cortez talks about how he was selected to participate in Via Colori: The Street Painting Festival this weekend, what inspired the painting he plans to execute in chalk on a street near Houston’s City Hall, and why he thinks he might need knee pads. Fourteen area high school students will join some 200 artists in bringing asphalt to life at the eighth annual festival.

How were you selected to participate?

Michael Cortez

All of the ninth-graders in art class at my school were asked to turn in some small sketches. From those, they chose one and gave us some pastels so that we could do it in color. The color painting was submitted to The Center for Hearing and Speech, and mine was selected.

How is the Center for Hearing and Speech involved?

All the proceeds from the festival are donated to them. They teach deaf children to listen, speak, and read.

So you will execute your painting in chalk on the street. Have you ever done that before?

No, this is my first time to work with chalk, but pastels are similar. I am excited because this is my first professional art experience. Up to now, I mostly drew with pencil or ink on paper. We went to the Center for Hearing and Speech, and they gave us some chalk so that we could experiment in their parking lot. Then I took the leftover chalk home and used it up practicing on asphalt at my house.

What is the subject of your painting?

It’s a portrait of John Lennon with a peace sign, and in the background are all the colors of the rainbow.

Why did you pick John Lennon for your subject?

I have always liked the Beatles, because when I was little, my dad would play their albums and show me their album covers. The idea just popped into my head.

Do you still listen to the Beatles?

I did when I was little, but now I am more into contemporary music.

Have you ever been to the Via Colori street festival or even heard of it?

Detail of the design Michael plans to draw at Via Colori

No, but I am really excited about it. There will be music, food, and other activities besides watching the artists work on their art.

How large is the area you have to work on?

It’s six by six feet. I plan to transfer my pastel drawing to asphalt using a grid system. I will outline everything lightly with the chalk before I start filling it in.

Do you think it is going to be physically taxing?

Yes, because we are there for two days either sitting or kneeling on the ground. I think I should get some knee pads.

I know there is a contest for a few winners. How is that determined?

There’s going to be a tip bucket next to each artist, and people vote by donating money, which is given to the Center for Speech and Hearing. The artists who get the most money win prizes, which include two round-trip plane tickets, an iPad, and some other things.

What made you decide to attend HSPVA?

I have been drawing for a long time, and I really enjoy it, but I was surprised when I got accepted into the high school.

After the festival ends, all the artwork will be washed away. How do you feel about that?

For me, this experience is exciting and has helped me with my art, so I wouldn’t say that the washing away of my drawing makes me sad, but opens up new opportunities.

If you know a graduate, student, employee, or other member of Team HISD who should be featured here, please email us at
2 Responses leave one →
  1. Elizabeth Authenreith permalink
    November 22, 2013

    I am so proud of my nephew. I believe his dad (Mike, my brother) and his mom (Lilly, amazing teacher in HISD) have given their children the power of creativity and imagination that make it possible for them to do what they want to do in life. It is amazing to see this talent showcased in the HISD eNews! AMAZING Nephew! Great job!

  2. Carol Walker permalink
    December 6, 2013

    Michael was a art student of mine in elementary school. He has always been creative, determined, and gifted in this field. I was pleased but not surprised that he would be given this opportunity. I still have some of his art and I feel his future will be very productive in whatever direction he pursues. I am proud of him, and for him. Keep the vision, and go for it!

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