Driving down the streets of Corpus Christi, one might notice the vibrant murals — the brush strokes that tell stories, the colors that transmit their energy, the way the sun beams down on the details. What one may not know upon first glance is that, depending on the mural, a group of teenagers most likely painted it, and it’s more than likely that K Space Contemporary had a hand in that.
Founded in 2001, K Space’s street-level galleries opened in 2007, and since then, they’ve housed numerous solo and group art shows every year, giving newer and established artists a chance to show their work to the public. On top of that, K Space leads the Mural Arts Program, a summer camp of sorts where local teenagers apply and, if accepted, get to spend the summer helping to paint a mural in a specified location.
“This year, it’s different,” said Mayra Zamora, local artist and one of the camp instructors. “We received a generous donation from a patron, so this is the first year that students don’t have to pay to come to camp, which is amazing. It’s unheard of. [Because] this year is different, campers had to submit an online application, write a statement of intent, provide previous experience and upload 3-5 works of art. So it’s more of a selection process based off their portfolio, statement of intent and previous experience.”
Though K Space provides a vehicle for teenagers to explore the various avenues of artistic expression, one of the things it prides itself on is bringing people of different backgrounds together to learn the ins and outs of respect and collaboration.
“The most enriching part for me is, yes, they get to learn process, but to me, I find it more enriching that they develop friendships, they find friends who love the same things they do, which is art,” Zamora said. “Another thing is [this camp] teaches the students what it’s like to be in a work environment. There will be days where you don’t want to interact, but you have to respect one another and collaborate with one another.”
It isn’t just the act of a teenager picking up a brush and painting on a wall that makes the program special. It’s that each student who participates has a hand in something that will be visible for many years, and that they invariably become part of the fabric of the community through their work and talent.
“I think it’s important for the community because there are a lot of programs here for elementary students, right?” Zamora said. “But we lose students in those teen years, so K Space is one of the few programs that’s geared specifically to teenagers and gives them a place to go — for the LGBTQ+ teen community as well. Twenty years from now, when the students are my age, they’ll remember they were a part of this mural. Not just K Space history, but Corpus history.”