Toccopola Sam

HOUSTON – Houston residents might have noticed that one of the sets of storm shelters in town has gotten a bit of a make-over. This is thanks to artist, Samantha Baldwin, or Toccopola Sam, as she is known.

Sam was brought in by Ward 1 Alderwoman Kellie Atkinson to paint a mural on one of the storm shelters in Joe Brigance Park. This was part of a mural contest that Atkinson hosted in conjunction with the Houston School district wherein students submitted their mural design and the winner’s mural was to be painted on the storm shelter. The winner was Houston High School senior, Tsilvan Caulder.

The original plan was for Sam to paint three sides with her mural, and him to paint the fourth. However, Caulder joined the Marines, and would not be able to do this. So instead, Sam painted her own mural on the storm shelter, and he will paint his on a smaller scale. Local business owner, Mike Colbert, will display it in one of his business’s windows.

“I’m hopefully going to cover the entire building,” said Sam.

Each wall has a different theme. The themes are: unity, inspiration and history.

The fourth side of the structure, which is the front, does not have a set theme. Instead, it will have different flowers that are native to the area painted on it.

Sam made efforts to keep the project a community-based one.

“I’ve gotten to meet so many great people in Houston and everybody is so nice,” said Sam. “Houston has shown me tremendous love, and it is only my second day ever being here. But the people who come, I ask them to put a brush stroke on the wall. That way it’s more of a community piece and they get to say ‘I helped’.”

She also wants people to be inspired by this project.

“This morning I had a little girl that came and looked at my artwork and she told her mom that she wanted to go home and paint,” said Sam. “And that’s exactly what I’m trying to create. I’m trying to create a spark within kids and maybe artists who’ve put their paint brush down and just haven’t picked it up for whatever reason. I just want to encourage others to create.”

People are encouraged to go and view the mural. They are even encouraged to take their picture with it. They only ask that people share the picture using #smalltownhouston.

According to Atkinson, there will likely be more projects like this in the future.

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