'Gator Wall' at UHD to be demolished for extra parking

HOUSTON - A trek to the north side of the University of Houston Downtown is a must during freshmen orientation.

It's there they find what quickly became an iconic piece of art after its completion two years ago. However, this is the last year incoming freshmen will make the journey.

“It’s a little bit a part of you that goes away,” Sebastien Boileau said.

Boileau said he began his career 30 year ago as a graffiti artist. During that time, he moved from France to Houston, expanded his skills, and created some memorable murals, including UHD's "Gator Wall".

“We worked that massive building like it was a canvas," Boileau said. “When you’re up close you see .... it’s almost like impressionistic technique but done with spray can.”

Boileau and two other artists spent eight weeks on the wall to bring Ed-U-Gator, the school's mascot, to life.

“A big university deciding to commit to local artist, you know street artist, to basically represent who they are, it’s a big deal,” Boileau said.

“We wanted to really make a point that we are the gators,” said Johanna Wolfe, the University of Houston Downtown vice president for advancement and community relations.

But as time ticks by, progress comes with it. This week, the wall will fall to make room for a campus expansion.

“It’s about a seventy-million dollar project. It’ll be a new natural sciences building with laboratories and community gathering spaces for our students to work collaboratively with faculty,” Wolfe said.

“Some murals last one week and some decades," Boileau said. “You never really know, you kind of roll the dice but you make it the best you can hoping that it will last for a long time.”

Those that love the mural can find a bit of solace. Though the original concrete canvas will disappear, the art will not be lost.

“We’ve used it within the university. There’s an image of it in our food court right now. The bookstore has recently been renovated and they’ve incorporated it into their design," Wolfe said. “The gator’s going to live on, just not in that current format on the warehouse.”

Demolition on the warehouse -- home to the Gator Wall -- will begin Thursday.

As for the new natural sciences building, groundbreaking is planned for some time in August.

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