Murals at the Library: A Guided Tour of HCPL’s Public Art

What are murals?

Murals are paintings or artwork directly created on a wall. They can use any medium from paint to tile to mixed materials. This art form and literature have always been closely tied together as forms of expression. Many modern murals draw inspiration from graffiti culture, once considered vandalism, but now has advanced into a powerful art form, often encouraged by city governments. The public art murals at our libraries are more than splashes of paint and color; they are ways to reclaim blank spaces, enhance the richness and playfulness of our environments, provide a visual space for onlookers to imagine, and at times offer statements about the library's missions, the power of the imagination or the culture at large.

The visual language of murals is rooted in storytelling, many of the pieces at our library tell the story of the library and the community it serves. Each library with a mural has a unique perspective and was created in partnership with local artists.

How many murals are there in Harris County Public Library branches?

There is art of some sort at almost all of our locations, but we have 6 branches with wall murals scattered across Harris County. 

Let's take a tour of HCPL's murals!

Starting in the southern part of the county with the mural at Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library in the Clear Lake/Webster Area that welcomes you as you enter the library. This library location is the largest branch in our system with an amazing Maker Space filled with cutting-edge technology, AND it’s the closest to the Johnson Space Center, AKA Mission Control for NASA. In fact, the branch is named for test pilot and astronaut Captain Theodore "Ted" Freeman.  It’s fitting that this digital art piece prominently features the galaxy and world beyond Earth.  It is entitled Flights. Science and science fiction don’t seem out of reach with this piece.

The artists Pat Rawlings and Faisal Ali, from local Aerospace firm SAIC, created this digital art mural using mixed media, including 3D models, sketches, paint, and scans to collage the image together. At the time (2004), this mural pushed the limits of digital art software and hardware with a whopping 2 gigabit file size, and taking over 15 minutes to save!

Moving to Seabrook, our Evelyn Meador Branch Library has three murals to view, including a large nautical-themed work that anchors the Children’s section. The digital art

mural features lots of hidden easter eggs for children and library patrons to discover. The artists Pat Rawlings and Faisal Ali (yes, the same ones who created Freeman's Flights) included the librarians as part of the mural. Another mural can be found as you enter the Friends of the Evelyn Meador Library Bookstore. It was painted in 2015 by Paige Moore and depicts a sunny Galveston seaside scene. A photo montage mural in the lobby documents the history of the Seabrook area.. 

Traveling up i-45, our next stop is  Aldine Branch Library and its spectacular graffiti-style mural painted entirely in spray paint in 2019 by local artist, DUAL.

The idea of knowledge flowing out of the library is KNOWLEDGE is one of the pillars of the library, providing access to knowledge is a tenet of all public libraries. This bright mural also has an extra cool feature in that it uses augmented reality. When you visit, remember to take a picture of the QR code with your smartphone, you’ll be in for a special interactive surprise! 

Learn more about Aldine Branch Library's Knowledge Mural>>>

Now, let's go just a little further east to our High Meadows Branch Library with a rotating outdoor mural that features different artists each year. This mural curation is done in partnership with the East Aldine Art Council and each piece is installed live at the library, so it's a great opportunity to see the artists at work.

See previous High Meadows EAAC art installations>>>

Further North, we have a massive multimedia mural titled On the Banks of the Cypress Creek by three artists, Pat Rawlings, Faisal Ali & Ian Henry at our Barbara Bush Branch Library. Installed in 2007 and commissioned by the Barbara Bush Library Friends (BBLF), this piece is meant to combine the local Texas wildlife and blend that landscape with classic characters and scenes from childhood literary favorites such as Little Red Riding Hood, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Dorothy, and others. This mural also serves as a memorial to a long-time BBLF member, Niki Rogers, who can be seen reading Goodnight Moon.

Now, scooting over to the west side, our Katherine Tyra Branch Library has a great mural by Houston Artist, Reginald C. Adams. As a way of emphasizing the idea that murals are truly public art, Adams got the community involved during the mural's installation in 2021. He invited patrons to create origami flowers that were then added to the piece. The mural depicts a beautiful outdoor scene with all sorts of animals and children reading and the artist included lots of easter eggs for patrons to discover.

A Bonus Mural

The newest library-related mural in the county is actually not at one of our library locations. It’s being painted on an exterior wall of the parking garage at 1111 Main St. in Downtown. The piece, commissioned by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis from British artist D*zone, will depict a reader with their book removed to expose background pixels. It’s meant to speak to the issue of book banning, which our library has faced more often in recent years. This mural is part of a public art series in downtown Houston, called Street Art for Mankind

Learn more about Street Art for Mankind>>>

Public Art, Public Libraries, and the Power of Storytelling

Making the tour around the county to see all the murals at Harris County Public Library branches could take a little time, but it would be worth it to see each piece for yourself. The pictures don't do the artwork justice. Part of the power of murals is in their scale. You must physically move to take them in completely.

Art and literacy together make a powerful combination that can challenge creativity and expression. They both celebrate the power of storytelling, reminding us why censorship is a losing battle and access to creativity and ideas creates a better world. By embracing art and literacy, we create communities that are vibrant, informed, and unafraid to raise their voices.

The Social and the Real

Walls That Speak

Vida Americana

Street Art/today

Graffiti World