July 13, 2023 by HCDE Communications
A picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of a custom mural at Harris County Department of Education’s new Adult Education Center, the painting of a faceless woman decorating the wall represents not only the students who will walk the halls, but endless possibilities.
Visitors may see themselves or loved ones in this dynamic mural. HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. sees his sister in the 30-foot-tall woman painted behind the main staircase of the new building.
“Carolyn Rene Colbert! She doesn’t know about this mural, but this faceless woman is symbolic of my relationship with [someone] who for many years was like a mother to me,” Colbert said with a smile. “I remember the day she dropped out of high school like it was yesterday. Carolyn was supposed to go to college, and everything was supposed to happen for her. But she got pregnant, and in an instant, that was the end of that dream.”
With his sister in mind, Colbert commissioned two murals in the new building to create a source of strength for disheartened Adult Education students ready to quit on their dreams. He said he hopes students who are thinking of giving up will look at the picture of the woman with positive words flowing around her skirt and out of her palm and gain the strength to persevere and go on. The greatest thing that could happen, he said, is for the mural to inspire someone to adapt and overcome whatever challenges they are facing. That is the power of the picture.
“When people come in this building, I want them to be inspired,” Colbert said. “We want to show them the world is not flat, and that regardless of all the negativity and life circumstances, it doesn’t matter. When our students come inside, they should feel like anything is possible.”
HCDE partnered with Sebastien Boileau, the owner and CEO of Eyeful Art and Designs, for the two murals: one of a faceless woman behind the main staircase and an abstract wall treatment in the lobby. Both pieces of art feature his distinct “canpressionism” style, a Neo-Impressionist technique that involves spray paint and street art techniques such as tagging and drip painting.
“When students and teachers walk in the door, they will see and feel the effort administrators put into this building and return it twofold,” Boileau said of the abstract mural with “HCDE” woven into the paint slashes.
Positive words are also integrated into the faceless woman mural and visitors will see the back of a woman with a stack of books in one hand and the other hand reaching up to a world of possibilities. “Success” and “succeed” flow out her palm while uplifting phrases like “never give up” and “be intentional” combine with positive words in both English and Spanish to swirl around her skirt. Moving up the staircase, the graffiti style fades into traditional textures, further representing a student’s journey through hardship onto a better life.
Colbert described the decision to have symbolic murals as a means of encapsulating Adult Education students’ tenacity and showcasing it in a dramatic way for future generations. For his sister, this perseverance spanned 20 years working multiple jobs to make ends meet. It culminated in Carolyn getting her GED and then obtaining a job at Chase One Bank, where she eventually became a call center manager.
“Carolyn is a prime example of life getting in the way,” Colbert said. “However, if there is one character trait my mother instilled in us – it’s grit! My sister and HCDE Adult Education students personify that word, you can’t keep them down. They will rise no matter how long it takes.”
The new state-of-the-art Adult Education facility, which HCDE will officially open during a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 19, will house the Adult Education staff along with several classrooms for GED, ESL and workforce preparedness courses. The building will also serve as a community outreach hub for the surrounding neighborhood as well as the greater Houston area.
To learn more about HCDE’s Adult Education programs, visit hcde-texas.org/adult-education.