If there is one word to describe the urban revitalization program organized by the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region (EAHPR), that word would also be ’big.’
With initial funding provided by Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, the series of epic art works is a means to beautify the San Jacinto Texas Historic District (SJTHD) while rebranding the image of Harris County and proudly displaying Texas history.
Project Stars, which began in 2004, is a master plan that combines the efforts of the 16 member communities and corporate partners such as ExxonMobil. The project seeks to unite the area’s history and its current success by beautifying the region and creating a ’Museum Without Walls.’
“The city of Baytown is thrilled to have ExxonMobil’s participation in this important beautification effort,” said City Manager Garry Brumback. “Throughout their 90-year history in Baytown, they have worked hard to promote the community through various educational and beautification efforts. Their participation in Project Stars will greatly enhance the city’s appearance.”
Following in the footsteps of other local chemical corporations like LyondellBassel and Shell, the ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown is now home to the latest installment of the project. County and city officials attended the unveiling of the epic art and were dwarfed by its size.
At a cost of $100,000, ’The Volunteers’ is the county’s most ambitious project to date, covering approximately on-third of an ExxonMobil storage tank and can easily be seen from the highway. The mural itself measures 40-by-100 feet.
Once the site of the famous Battle of San Jacinto, Baytown and the surrounding areas have transformed into a global energy hub and now boasts one of the largest ports in the world.
“As ExxonMobil Baytown celebrates our 90th anniversay, we have had the opportunity to reflect on our rich history with the surrounding communities and the great state of Texas,” said Baytown Refinery Manager Steve Cope.
“Throughout our history, we have worked hard to enhance the areas around our facility. Participating in Project Stars is just one of the many ways we have demonstrated our support of the city of Baytown and its beautification efforts.”
The latest manifestation of the program’s epic art depicts two individuals of culturally diverse backgrounds whose volunteerism in the Battle of San Jacinto was revered throughout Texas. Jose Antonio Menchaca, a Tejano rancher, and Jesse Billingsly, the storied frontier captain of the Mina Volunteers, represent the countless citizen volunteers who fought against Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican forces in the quest for Texas’ independence.
“Their spirit and place in Texas history will be remembered today when we unveil the tank. So many people from so many backgrounds came together for a common cause back in 1836. That’s part of what I love about Project Stars,” said Garcia. “The bottom line is, we all work together to get things done. Partnerships do, in fact, produce results.”
This artwork, along with others in the area created by Native Sun Productions, will help transform the region and provide viewers a unique opportunity to link Texas’ celebrated heritage with the present.
As with ’The Volunteers,’ each of the pieces commissioned by SJTHD are historically accurate in terms of the moments in time they represent. Even the clothing worn by the actors is historically accurate down to the types of fabric and buttons used during the period.
Plans are already underway for more canvases on similar tanks and other structures located on major thoroughfares thoughout the SJTHD, according to EAHHP President and CEO Chad Burke.
A non-profit education 501c3 has been established to help fund projects such as this to spur interest in history, education and community development.