Students let their creativity shine in HCTC building mural
Story by ANDREA AGARDY | Photography by GABE HERRERA
When Gabe Herrera, a graphic designer at HCTC, had the idea to brighten up one of the cooperative’s buildings with a mural, he also saw an opportunity to build a bond with the community. Instead of painting it himself or hiring a muralist, Herrera reached out to Penny Duncan’s art students at Comfort High School. “The mural is a tribute to Comfort,” Herrera says. “We’re all about the community at HCTC. I was very excited when they said, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’” He wasn’t alone in his enthusiasm. Duncan’s students relished the opportunity to spend some time outdoors adding a little color to their hometown. “When Gabe asked us to do this mural, I thought, ‘This is a great community project,’” Duncan says.
The teenagers designed the mural, which covers an entire side of the building at 508 Eighth St. in Comfort’s historic downtown. The project came together like a patchwork quilt, with students
painting squares depicting their answers to Duncan’s question, “What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Comfort, Texas?” Among the items the work commemorates are wildflowers, a longhorn steer, cowboy boots and a Comfort High School football player. The young artists worked on the project for weeks during their class time, using the scaffolding, brushes and paints that HCTC provided. Future students may have the chance to share their unique visions of Comfort, as well. “We’re thinking that we might change this out every few years,” Herrera says. “That way, we keep kids involved, and we could offer different art students a chance to do something cool like this and be a part of a changing mural in the middle of town.” Herrera, who didn’t have an opportunity to take a formal art class himself until he was a college student, sees the mural not only as an opportunity for HCTC to be a part of the vibrant Comfort
community, but also as a way to demonstrate that art can be a rewarding way to earn a living. “I’m showing them you can have a career in art,” he says. “Even if you’re just doodling on paper,
don’t give up on that if it’s something you like doing. You can be successful and make money as an artist at the same time while you’re having fun with it.” Duncan hopes working on the mural inspires her students not only to continue to be creative, but also to think about what they can do to better their community and their neighbors’ lives. “I’m hoping that they take away a good foundation on community projects knowing that it’s going to benefit everyone and not just ourselves,” she says. “Just to bring some color into the community I think is really helping. I’ve had a lot of compliments on it, and I’m just proud of our students for taking on this big project.”