The Creation of Adam is brought to life in Midtown Houston

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creation of adam, mural in houston, sebastien houston artist

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

It’s not every day when you can walk the streets of Houston and see a spectacular work of art worthy of showcase on a side of a building. For the people enjoying their bike ride or stroll on Fannin near Tuam, seeing a 60-foot-high by one city block-wide Michelangelo-type painting in the works is a spectacular sight.

How did this come to light?

French-American artist Sebastien Boileau, in partnership with UP Art Studio and the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts and the Midtown District, teamed up to present the largest mural ever produced in Houston. Not only is this project going to raise public art awareness within the community, but proceeds raised from this mural will help fund a children’s hospital mural project in Houston which will begin production in 2014-2015.

I had a chance to catch up with Sebastien “Mr. D” recently. In his own words….

Sebastien Boileau

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

 

Eric: If you could tag any building in the world, what/where would it be?

Sebastien: If it was allowed (the illegal days are behind me), it would be the castle of Versaiiles. I was born near Versaiiles and would love to have an art show inside the castle being a son of the city. I would like to do installation and art in the building. As for an outside job, my target building in Houston is the AT&T building off I-45. Every time I am driving on I-45 it calls my name.

Eric: What was the biggest obstacles in successfully launching Eyeful Art?

Sebastien: The language. I came to the US with very broken English. Culturally it was not that difficult. After all, we, Europe and America, are cousins. But picking up the language was the biggest obstacle I had to overcome.

sebastien boileau, mural in houston, creation of adam midtown houston

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

 

Eric: What are some of the works that you have created that you are most proud of?

Sebastien: Without a doubt I am really happy with this current art project. As for indoor art projects, I am very proud of being able to take part in the first graffiti show in Houston set at the Station Museum. My exhibition at “CALL IT STREET ART, CALL IT FINE ART, CALL IT WHAT YOU KNOW” is one of my proudest works.

mural midtown houston

Eric Melchor & Sebastien Boileau

Eric: Have you ever received any crazy art requests?

Sebastien: Probably one of the most recent, was a building on Westheimer called Biscuit Home. It’s a company that sells all kinds of linen for the house. They fixed up the building beautifully and they wanted me to pour paint all over it. The irony of life. People are starting to ask me to do things to their property that years ago would never have been considered a ‘commissioned project’. Projects that used to get me in trouble are now becoming commissioned works.

Eric Calvillo

Sebastien with Eric Calvillo – one of the artist working on the mural

Eric: What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Sebastien: All jokes aside, Viggo Mortenson. When the beard and hair is down, I cannot even go into Starbucks without having people come up to me.

(Seriously, he can pass for Viggo quite easily).

Eric: Name one thing about you that most people don’t know?

Sebastien: I am extremely goofy, but only those close to me really see that side of me.

houston graffiti, midtown art, mural in houston

Photo Credits: Matthew Landry, Alex Saenz, Peter Molick Photography

Eric: What is one your favorite quotes?

Sebastien: Michelangelo – “I have suffered more than any man has in labor and bad health yet I remain patient to achieve a desired goal.”

Eric: If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would you meet?

Sebastien: I can’t really come up with a person that I am so intrigued by. There are people who have done great things, but regardless of who they are, they are just like you and me.

Interview closed.

To celebrate the completion of “Preservons la Creation”, come to Midtown Houston on Saturday, June 7th from 3:00 to 11:00pm. Location – 2800 San Jacinto / Northeast Corner of Fannin Street and Tuam Street. Tickets can be purchased here.

 

 

Feeding and Dining with the Homeless

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Have you ever seen a group of homeless gathering to hear Mass? Well they do and the group of people from Ecclesia Church have an outreach program called ‘Simple Feast’. The idea is to not only feed those in society that are often cast aside, but to also share a meal with them.

In the words of Jacky Bui, “The man on the street is not just a addict or a lazy man who won’t work, but a husband and father who has been given up on or a man who made a mistake and, though no longer in prison, finds himself still in one. There is a blending of those serving and those being served; circles of folks sitting on the grass talking and playing with pets; kids throwing a football around with grown men; and volleyball games that reveal the competitive nature of men regardless of financial status. “Us” and “them” have become sisters and brothers. This is a simple feast.”

If you’d like to see and experience this celebration for yourself, Simple Feast would love for you to join them for a Sunday (or two). Just contact Jacky Bui at jaxbui (at) gmail (dot) com.

If Houston was a City on a Hill

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If Houston had a hill in the center of the city, I can think of many things that could be constructed on top. For instance, wouldn’t it be amazing if our football stadium were located there? Afterall, us Texans love our football. Or how about our medical center considering people from all over the world come to Houston to be treated. Perhaps a University like Rice or University of Houston should be placed on top since bright minds are the ones that will be shaping our future. Or maybe a theater where symphonies and operas can perform would be best. Any of these things would be wonderful choices to display on a hill, but if the goal is to display the best of what Houston has to offer, than that would entail witnessing the act of selfless giving, humility, kindness, and community that so many Houstonians willing do everyday.

It would be wrong for me to choose one organization and their volunteers over another to be placed on a hill since there are so many in Houston like the Covenant House, Star of Hope, or Casa Juan Diego. However, I would like to mention one place that is tucked away in the outskirts of the city. CampForAll is a place where children with special needs and challenging illnesses can not only go to heal, but also learn new skills and gain self-confidence.

With a special thanks to camp director Kurt Podeszwa whom I met at TedX Houston, I was given a tour of the camp and witness first-hand several of the fun and challenging activities that these campers participate in. Archery, zip lining, fishing, horse back riding, rock climbing, kayaking, painting, and even some dancing performing moves like the sprinkler and the ice cream. (These kids are much better dancers than me).

I am a bit jealous of these kids. I never went to a camp such as Camp For All where I could enjoy so many activities and interact with so many other kids. In addition to seeing these amazing kids perform these activities, I also met some great volunteers. College students who absolutely loved volunteering and encouraging these kids to discover life at camp. Below is a pic of four awesome volunteers I was able to meet during my visit – Keziah, Sarah, Omar, and Molleigh along with Kurt.

If you’d like to support Camp For All, help supply them with much-needed things that you can get at Target, Wal-Mart, or Amazon. Just search for ‘Camp For All’ at http://www.target.com/lists/find, www.walmart.com/wishlist, and http://www.amazon.com/. Gifts of any size will help the children with special needs and challenging illnesses to discover the wonderful life at camp.

If you have any questions and would like to volunteer, please contact Sterling Leija at sleija@campforall.org or call her at 979-289-3752. Please pass this post along to your friends!

Save your business time and money while doing good – Samasource

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Want to help end poverty? Stop giving aid and give work. This is the mission of Samasource – a company that provides high quality service to customers all over the world with a catch. The workers are refugees and women from poverty stricken countries.

Samasource, which means, “equal”, delivers data services and virtual assistance from 23 digital work centers in nine countries. The workers are highly motivated and are able to complete projects on a 24/7 basis. Clients range from startups to big companies like Google, LinkedIn, ETS, and even the US State Department.

Termed ‘microwork’, this is a great way to fight poverty by enabling capable, marginalized people to complete digital tasks in some of the world’s poorest places. Their model provides direct income to thousands of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional aid programs and equips them with skills to succeed in the new economy. Yes, I am a big fan indeed. Thank you Samasource.

 

Vox Culture – How art can be used to raise issues about Social Problems

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Vox Culture has been raising awareness and partnering with organizations to fight against community problems for a while now. How they do is very different than your typical non-profit agencies. By working with creative people like musicians, artists, and local eateries, they bring together a blend of different people to create a cultural experience while enjoying food, music, and art while learning to help others.

Once of the projects Vox is working on is help bringing awareness to the problem of human trafficking. There are more people enslaved today than at any other point in human history. Partnering with HRRC,  a non-profit organization dedicated to confronting modern-day slavery by educating the public, they will be featuring an art exhibit and present a film screening of “Pack and Deliver”, a film that shows how traffickers recruit, transport, and harbor human slaves through the use of force, coercion and other means.

To learn more about this event and Vox Culture, please visit www. VoxCulture.com. To learn about the sex trafficking problem in Houston, read ‘Houston’s Hidden Problem‘ and see the preview to ‘Pack and Deliver’ below.

IFI – Prison Reform that Works

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68% of prisoners in the US return to jail within three years…. 48% of prisoners in Texas return to prison in three years.

Only 10% of prisoners who participate in the IFI prison program return to prison in three years.

How is it possible that inmates who participate in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative have such a low rate of return? Why are the majority of these inmates not repeating crimes and not repeating undesirable behavior compared to other prisoners?

The IFI program is located in Richardson, Texas (45 minutes from downtown Houston), just down the road from the Carol Vance Texas prison. The program began in 2000 and although the unit itself is funded by the State, the program is a non-profit mostly relying on help from volunteers.

For an inmate to be allowed to enter the program, they must have 2 years or less on their prison sentence and must not be a sex offender. So about my visit to seeing the IFI first-hand, I was not allowed to take photos inside the unit, and although I cannot imagine this unit looking much different than other prison units, one thing that really stood out was the gardens within the unit that are planted and maintained by the inmates. Some of the gardens I saw would have given your ‘garden of the month’ homeowner a run for his money. Despite the high fences and barb wire, it was refreshing to see plants and flowers blooming within the unit.

Texas IFI Director Tommie Dorsett, led the tour. He has been involved with the IFI since the beginning of when the program was launched eleven years ago. When launched, 25 men entered the program. Now, every year there are about 300 men in the program.

1st stop – the computer lab. Did you know that the average inmate is in jail for 10 years? Many of the inmates are not familiar with using computers, creating resumes, and drafting business plans. Yes, you read that right – Business Plans.

70% of corporations do not hire felons which impede many released prisoners from finding work. With that said, IFI places a big emphasis on teaching the inmates to think about potential businesses they can create and putting these plans onto paper. Furthermore, several experienced business professionals in the community volunteer their time and provide coaching and instruction on how to create a business plan. To date, 33 participants have started their own businesses such as air condition repair, landscaping, plumbing, painting services, and car mechanic service. Just my first stop on the tour and I was already impressed.

Next stop, recording studio. As soon as I walked in I saw two inmates behind a desk that featured an Apple computer and sound equipment. Yes I was a bit jealous since I don’t even own an Apple laptop. Along the walls of the recording studio were dozens of kids’ books – some in Spanish as well as English. This was not your traditional recording studio. In this room, inmates who are fathers actually read children books and record their voice. The recordings are then mixed with background sound effects and recorded onto a CD that is then mailed to their families. Once the mom or family member pops in the CD, the kids, as you can imagine, are so excited to hear daddy’s voice and are thrilled to listen to the CDs over and over. Two times a year recordings are made – at Christmas and for birthdays. Such a wonderful idea that helps connects the fathers with their kids.

3rd stop – hear a Toastmasters speech. I was totally surprised when I found out that there is a Toastmasters group at IFI! If you are not aware of Toastmasters, it is a club that helps members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. The club meets on a regular basis so that members can practice speaking in front of audiences, listening, and providing each other with feedback and evaluation.

Great, we on the tour were thrilled to be able to hear a speech from one of the inmates. The Toastmaster (who did a great job welcoming everyone and stating the course of the meeting) introduced one of the inmates – Derrill who gave a speech entitled “How your Weakness can become your Greatest Strength”. I have heard a good number of speeches. In fact, I was also in a Toastmaster group years ago and heard several people give talks. Derrill…. Derrill was awesome. He gave a speech so well that he had my complete attention and interest. Full of life, animation, and conviction, Derrill told one of the greatest stories I have ever heard. What a brilliant idea to teach leadership and speaking skills – implement a Toastmasters group in prison.

There are several other programs at the IFI such as Financial Management, courses on work ethic, anger management, Embracing the Father, and Purpose Driven Life. Unfortunately our tour did not permit enough time to visit all the different classes.

As to why do I think the InnerChange Freedom Initiative is so successful, although the wealth of classes and learning opportunities available for the inmates help, I believe the success is attributed to the volunteers and mentors who dedicate their time to helping prepare these inmates for reentry to society, employment, religious and community service, and family and social relationships. It is because of the volunteers that the program is largely successful.

Roy Garcia, who has been volunteering for 2 ½ years, said it best, “I continue to be amazed at the wonderful transformation that occurs in the men that go through the IFI program. When these men come to my office (the Aftercare Office, where I work, where the men visit after they are released from the Carol Vance Unit) and visit me I am amazed at the profound change that has occurred. The man sitting in front of me is not the man of whom I read about in his file. The man who in his early 20’s was a drug user and seller is now a productive member of society. It’s such a privilege and joy for me to be part of this wonderful ministry.”

To learn more and see how you can help, please visit www.ifiprison.org.

A fun Houston Community Center for kids and families

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If I were a kid in Houston and was taken to spend the day at the Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center located near Sharpstown , jokingly, I might have to ask my parents if I had leukemia or something. There is so much to do for kids of all ages!

Want to learn how to belly dance? Well you can during the summer at Baker-Ripley. Combine the fundamentals of the ancient art form of belly dance and gypsy moves complimented with a modern twist. Okay, so maybe you don’t want to dance, but there are plenty more activities to choose from like Cake Decorating or Arts & Crafts where you can learn to create quality table centerpieces and event decorations for various special events.

  • Learn how to play the guitar and other types of instruments
  • Enjoy reading time with other kids your age
  • Learn how to make your own pinatas for special occasions
  • Take an oil art class
  • Learn the art of making jewelry with various beads and metals as well as design and technique
  • Put on your dancing shoes and get introduced to various Latin dance styles including salsa, merengue, bachata, cumbia, and cha-cha
  • Take a Healthy Cooking course where you can learn how to cook healthy and simple disches
  • Breath, stretch and relax with a Yoga class
All these activities are available for kids and adults. There are even more activities for those 18+ such as Piano Class, Prevention of Sexual Violence, Sewing Club, free Tax Preparation, a Credit Union, and Immigration and Citizenship services. 
So many wonderful services and activities that kids and adults can participate in at the Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center. If I were a kid living near the area, I think I’d be there every day!
Special thanks to Brooke Browne, Neighborhood Center Online Communications Manager, for giving me a tour of this wonderful Houston Community Center.