Two talented artists with strong ties to East Aldine have shown through their murals that home is where the art is.
Cease Martinez, who attended MacArthur High School, was recently putting the finishing touches on the “Greetings from East Aldine” mural on the wall of Ace Dental at 3420 Aldine Mail Route Rd.
His stunning new artwork is capturing attention from motorists and community leaders, who have rerouted their local trips to stop and take photos with the self-taught artist.
Kimberly Gillespie, who taught kindergarten and pre-K students for five years at Reece Academy, is the creator and painter of the Aldine mural that graces the wall near the amphitheater stage at the East Aldine Management District building at the Town Center. The brightly colored, whimsical mural will remain in place for at least the next year.
The East Aldine Arts Council, a committee of the District, funded both murals through Up Art Studio as part of their mission to bring more beauty to the area.
Martinez, who grew up in East Aldine, is a self-described “former knucklehead” whose artistic talents were first developed when he “tagged” a local grocery store with a can of spray paint.
He then convinced the owner of JFK Mart to allow him to paint a mural to cover up his own graffiti. That led to his first paid art gig, when a nearby garage owner have him $200 to paint Houston sports franchise logos on his building.
“That was the last illegal graffiti that I ever did,” Martinez said.
His artistic talents were developed by his grandmother’s doodles of shapes that he turned into cars and trucks. Martinez continued to draw and paint, despite his father’s insistence that his skills on the baseball field — as a shortstop and first baseman — were a more likely key to success.
Now the 44-year-old father of three travels the nation from his East Downtown apartment studio to complete commissioned murals and artwork.
Martinez was one of 21 Texas artists who donated their time and talent to the “Healing Uvalde Mural Project,” after the 2022 Uvalde school shooting. He painted the likenesses of teacher Irma Garcia and her husband, Joe, who died from a heart attack two days after her death.
“I titled that “Amore Eternal,” because they had been high school sweethearts,” Martinez said. “I have gotten to know their family. But I got involved in the project just because I felt the need to contribute something to the community of Uvalde.”
More recently, Martinez was commissioned by UP Art Studios to participate in a mural project for the city of Victoria’s 2024 bicentennial celebration.
Martinez said he has really enjoyed painting the “Greetings from East Aldine” mural in his old stomping grounds.
“Now that I’m starting to get recognized for the talent I have and I’m getting paid well, I think that’s wonderful,” Martinez said. “But I have also learned that art can be healing.”
Through his art, Martinez and his father are now closer than they have ever been.
“Until this year, my Dad had never seen anything I made. And so, I invited him to a solo show, and he came,” Martinez said. “The pride and the words that he shared with me afterwards, that’s priceless,”
Gillespie, a native of Dayton, OH, is a graduate of Bowling Green University who came to Reece Academy as part of an Aldine ISD program to attract teachers to serve economically disadvantaged students. With her degree in elementary education, she taught art to kindergarten and PreK students.
Reece Academy is a magnet school that focuses on arts education.
“My entire life, I wanted to be a teacher and then I actually got into teaching and that is when I found out that what teachers love to do most is what we only get to do maybe 10 percent of the time,” Gillespie said.
She left teaching, but not without leaving a “goodbye present” to the children of East Aldine. She painted a large arts-themed mural on the Reece Academy cafeteria wall.
Some of those grown-up children now are enjoying her art again.
After teaching, Gillespie earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Houston and went to work in the tech industry. But she was so bored with her desk job that on her lunch breaks, she went home to paint.
Between her job as a licensed realtor, Gillespie fulfills her creativity by painting whimsical murals in the bedrooms of her clients’ children.
She also has painted murals for the Antone’s T.C. Jester location, the Memorial Trail Ice House and the Nutcracker Market.
Because she has stayed in touch with her teacher friends in East Aldine, Reece Academy violin teacher Tiffany Goines encouraged Gillespie to enter a design for the East Aldine District’s mural competition for the International Arts Festival held in May.
“And they selected mine,” Gillespie said.
“It was a design that I had to paint in a day, and it was brutal. It was very, very hot and I was getting dehydrated.”
Goines, the violin teacher, along with the vendors from a nearby taco truck, saved the day. Goines supplied her with water and the tacos kept her energy up, Gillespie said.
“When I finished the project, it was a very surreal moment. I took a picture from far away, way back by the playground, and I like the fact that you can still see it,” Gillespie said. “It really warms my heart that my design is bringing so much color and joy to that space. And it’s wonderful that it is in a community where I taught for five years.”
See Martinez’s work on Instagram at @world_of_cease.
See Gillespie’s work at Kimmiedesigns.com.
— by Anne Marie Kilday