Houston Via Colori Street Painting Festival would not exist without her leadership and strategy...in fact, she's the reason it even began ten years ago! Natalie Vuckovic, Director of Development at The Center for Hearing and Speech, weighs in on the good, the bad, and the behind-the-scenes of Via Colori the past ten years in part 2 of our two-part series. Enjoy! Natalie.png




1. This question is just unfair because I know you have a thousand favorite art pieces, but if you had to choose your top 5, what would they be?

You're right that isn't fair - you are asking me to choose 5 out of the 1,800 or so I have seen over the past 9 years!  I have the honor of calling many of these artists my friends and honestly appreciate all of their artwork as it comes from such a genuine and special place.  But I will answer if you allow me the luxury of choosing 5 of my personal favorites AND five that have touched me because of the stories behind the artwork (these are all from memory so forgive me if I have the year wrong).

My personal favorites:

1. Raul Rincon's Ballerina, 2011: I was in awe of this mural and how Raul managed to create a breath-taking translucent ballerina dress out of chalk

2. Kelly & Russ's Mandrill, 2008: Talk about a pop of color, this duo has an incredible ability to portray animals. Loved all of them but this was my favorite!

3. John Davis' Labrador, 2009: I still have a photo of John's mural taped to my computer, and love that he included a 3D tip bucket!

4. David Zinn's installations, 2014: it is no secret in our office that I may be David Zinn's #1 fan, I am obsessed with his whimsical characters and was honored to have him at the festival last year.

5. Lizette Galvan's Mr. Potato Head, 2010: Such a fun piece and still makes me smile when I see the photo!

And the five that touched me:

1. Melanie Stimmell's Mermaids, 2006. This was the beginning of my love affair with street painting. Watching Melanie create magic with chalk, stopping often to answer questions or thank visitors for their compliments showed me that this art form is so much more than the finished piece.

2. Harvey Builders Artist Team’s Colorful Via Colori woman, 2012: The piece was gorgeous, but it was the fact that when I walked by one of the Harvey Builder employees started a sales pitch telling the audience what the Center does and asking for a "vote" to help support the organization.  He repeated this pitch all.day.long.  Their dedication truly touched me (and yes, they won fan favorite that year!)

3. Camilo Gonzalez’s Katy landscape mural, 2008: I was chatting with Camilo at the festival and he told me that the piece was a view from the overpass of Grand Parkway, a route I take each and every day to work.  I often remember the beauty of his artwork mural and it gets me through my traffic frustrations.

4. Cecelia Linayao’s Blue Flame, 2011:  Cece is known for creating artwork that connects with her sponsor in a creative way.  In 2011 she researched LINN Energy’s industry and decided to draw a women holding a beautiful glowing blue flame, a testament to the partnership between our artists and our sponsors. 

5. Shawn Artis’ trilogy of Michael's, 2011-2013: Okay not fair because it was 3 paintings in 3 years, but I loved the story Shawn shared that he started with Michael Jackson in a 4' square and challenged himself each year to move up in size with a different Michael (Jordan was the 6' and Tyson the 10').


2. What's your favorite activity at Via Colori this upcoming year?

Without a doubt, the LB Lounge presented by Kroger.  Dog Couture, delicious cocktails, tasty food and so much more to honor my colleague and friend Lisa Benitez.  Seriously, you cannot miss this exclusive festival add-on, go right now and purchase your ticket or you will live with a world of regret.  


3. What year had the best weather? And the worst?

Believe it or not the first year was actually the best, two sunny days and blue skies.  Many would think I would say last year was the worst because for the first time we had to cancel a full day of activities. But it was picture perfect on Sunday so instead I will say 2013 was the toughest year, cloudy and colder than anyone wants to remember.   We are resilient and we have managed to carry on regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us....but if everyone wants to do a sun dance the week of Via Colori this year I am good with that too!


4. Via Colori is a fundraiser – how has the Houston community supported the festival? 

Simply put, our sponsors are awesome.  They are engaged...they attend...they volunteer...and they connect with our audience in organic ways.  From the companies and individuals who have been with us since the beginning to the sponsors who are new to us this year, we couldn't ask for a better group to work with to create win-win partnerships. 


5. If you had to give the festival some hashtags, what would they be?

Other than our official hashtag #HoustonViaColori I would add #stilldontknowhowtheydothat #havetoseetobelieve #laboroflove #artmusicandfoodtrucksohmy #letthesunshineprettyplease #10yearsandcounting #helpingkidshear

 Thank you, Natalie, for your hard work to make this festival SUCH a success!! We love you!

-Your Via Colori Team