The Southwest Management District has come a long way in making its area more attractive.
So has Alex Maksiov.
Maksiov comes from war-torn Ukraine and recently returned to its capital city, Kyiv. He specializes in painting “street art” that looks three-dimensional, but isn’t. He has created eye-popping outdoor works in Turkey, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, the United States and other nations.
In late 2022 he came to the attention of Houston-based Up Art Studio, whose many public art projects include the dozens of mini-murals painted on traffic signal boxes across the city.
Last year was also when the Southwest Management District ventured into funding public art to help further the beautification of its neighborhoods and elevate civic pride for visitors, businesses and residents.
Maksiov was working on a street art project in Florida when he asked an artist with ties to Up Art’s “Big Walls, Big Dreams” mural fest to recommend him for work in Houston.
The connection led to Maksiov being hired to create a whimsical piece for the Southwest District. He also created one for Metro at a light rail station on the north side of town.
Elia Quiles, Up Art principal and co-founder with her husband, Noah Quiles, said a drive through the Southwest District inspired them to approach Top Florist, 6895 S. Gessner Road at busy Bellaire Boulevard, for permission to use part of its outside walls as the “canvas” for a mural design approved by the District and the property owner.
Maksiov was the perfect artist to carry out the plan, considering that the finished product includes puzzle piece images that appear to have a dark depth. That 3-D touch is his trademark in art works across Europe.
Other elements in the design suggest an Asian-style dragon, reflecting the culture of Chinatown along the Bellaire Boulevard corridor. The giant flowers of course reflect the items for sale inside the store.
Maksiov sent a few comments after we contacted him by e-mail this month.
“It was a great experience to be in Houston and taking part in the Big Walls, Big Dreams festival,” he wrote. “I don’t know if I will have a chance to visit the U.S. this year.”
Quiles thanked the District for the opportunity to bring public art to an area outside central Houston, where it first took root.
“Public art brings joy to people daily, and we feel like all of the community benefits,” she said. “It instills civic pride, it makes the neighborhood more beautiful, it uplifts people.”
The District is poised to consider funding more public art along the commercial corridor, complementing other projects such as the “Longevity” mural facing the H Mart at 9896 Bellaire Blvd.
The District board, chaired by Kenneth Li, vets its public art plan through its environmental and urban design committee chaired by Stephen Le Jr.
The District funds graffiti and litter abatement along commercial corridors along with other beautification projects.
Its 2016-2030 Service Plan calls for providing “visual continuity and inviting streetscapes… to improve the image and appeal of the commercial community.”