First-time-muralist leaves permanent mark on Houston museum's walls

January 29, 2019 | Katherine Adams

First-time-muralist leaves permanent mark on Houston museum's walls

When Jessica Padilla took a museum studies course last summer at University of Houston-Clear Lake, she didn’t think that a class field trip to the Houston Maritime Museum would end with an opportunity for her to leave a permanent mark – or mural – on the museum’s wall.

Padilla, a senior working toward her art and design bachelor of fine arts, aspires to become an art educator. “When we went on the field trip to the Houston Maritime Museum, one of the docents was talking about the kids’ cove area, where they have games, costumes and toys related to ships and boats,” Padilla said. “They’ve just moved to this location from their old building, where they had a mural.”

Padilla said she’d thought it was unfortunate that they had such a nice, new location and that it would be great if they could get a new mural. “I waited till after the tour was over and I stayed behind and told the docent that I would like to mural, although I had never tried it before,” she said.

She was asked to send her portfolio to the museum and to submit some design suggestions. “They said they’d like the mural to look like windows looking out to sea and that the room itself was the boat,” she said. “The kids could stand with the mural behind them and it would make for good photos to share on social media, which they hoped would help people become more aware of the museum.”

Houston Maritime Museum’s Education and Outreach Coordinator Matt Doyen said that at first, they were hesitant because they didn’t believe they could find a muralist. “We were blown away by Jessica’s designs,” he said. “We gave her the dimensions and she sent us a design of an octopus pulling down a boat, with a second boat in the distance. There’s a platform with a wheel, which kids can stand on with the mural behind them. It makes for a great photo. The kids will love it and she did a great job.”

The mural took about two weeks to complete. “They seem to be happy with it, and to me it feels amazing,” Padilla said. “It’s like I was able to leave a part of myself for the community to enjoy. I’m excited that parents will take their kids to this museum and enjoy their day, and I get to be part of that good memory.”

Since her first attempt at painting a mural was such a success, Padilla said that she has tried her hand at some additional mural projects, including receiving commissions to paint mini-murals on traffic signal boxes.

“The City of Houston was accepting applications to create mini-murals to make the ugly traffic signal boxes look better, and of 551 applications that came in, 45 were accepted, including mine,” she said. “I was so surprised. The others are full-time artists who do this for a living. I think I might be the only one who’s still a student. This has opened a possible new career path for me. I will still become an art teacher, but maybe I could start being a muralist on the side.”

The museum is located at 2311 Canal St on Houston’s East Side. For more information about UHCL’s Art and Design Bachelor of Fine Arts with Grades EC-12 Art Certification, visit