For a number of years downtown Baytown has been more of a thoroughfare than a destination. The city is trying to change that with a master plan to make the area an arts, cultural and entertainment district. A local artist is throwing in his bid to make his portraits the centerpiece.
"I'm really concerned with just putting a Band-Aid on the hearts of the families," said Ken Pridgeon.
The 78-year-old Pridgeon has spent the past three years painting portraits of every Texas troop killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Using photos of the troops sent by families, the Air Force veteran knows the story of each hero, like army Specialist Eddie Tamez of Galveston who was killed in Iraq in 2007.
"He spent his 21st birthday in Paris, France," remembers Pridgeon.
Pridgeon's gallery sits across from the Brunson Theater, which would be one of the cornerstones to revitalization.
Pridgeon showed up at Thursday night's city council meeting to make his proposal to move his gallery into the theater. He believes the faces of these fallen troops can help resurrect this once vibrant section of town. But for him it's all about the families.
"Words can't express their joy that I have actually captured their young man or their young woman, young lady, and they can look in their eyes and take a portrait home," said Pridgeon.
The city council heard two proposals at Thursday night's meeting and will open up discussion for other proposals. That means a final decision won't be made for several months.
In the meantime, Ken Pridgeon will continue his work on the 732 portraits. He's about halfway finished.