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UH MA in Arts Leadership Program Holds Key to the City for Graduate Student

For the 2016 Houston Urban Experience Mural Fest, Tyler Kay painted from daybreak to dusk.


University of Houston College of the Arts (CotA) graduate student Tyler Kay (MAAL 2018) isn’t one to shy away from the spotlight. Though she is only in her first semester of the innovative Master of Arts in Arts Leadership (MAAL) program, she serves as the gallery director for Bisong Art Gallery, frequently travels to live paint at festivals, is exhibiting two works at the next Art Basel Miami, and has received numerous commissions for her work.

This past October, Tyler Kay added a new accolade to her burgeoning list of accomplishments. She was one of roughly 100 artists selected from around the world for the 2016 Houston Urban Experience Mural Festival, or HUE. Tyler Kay has experience painting large-scale interiors walls—including a recent mural of Houston’s sports mascots at Calhoun’s Rooftop Bar and Grill, located above The Nook Café—but HUE afforded her the chance to paint her first official outdoor mural.

Fleurette Fernando, Director of the MAAL Program, said connecting graduate students to Houston arts leaders and opportunities is one of the core tenets of the program.

“With this program, we want to elevate the work our students do,” said Fernando. “One way we can do this is by building bridges to form a community of cohorts, peers, and teachers.”

Tyler Kay discovered the international HUE festival when she met one of the co-founders in one of her MAAL classes. UH student Carolyn Figueroa and her husband Mario E. Figueroa, Jr., the Houston-based street artist known as GONZO247 and founder of Aerosol Warfare Gallery, launched HUE in 2015 to encourage multi-cultural artistic collaborations within Houston.

Tyler Kay worked from daybreak to dusk for a week to complete her mural, covering the exterior of 1213 Maury Street with sprawling red roses, a motif she frequently explores in her work.

 “I wanted to stick to something that was true to me, something that would represent who I am as a painter,” she said. Taking this idea one step further, Tyler Kay opted for a small, two-inch brush over spray paint for the entire mural.

“Even though my arm was hurting by the end of the week, I stuck to my little paintbrush,” she said.

The HUE festival is just one of the doors that has been opened for Kay through the Arts Leadership program.

“I knew there would be tremendous opportunity [in Houston] for practicing artists,” she said. But, she adds, the immersive MAAL program has already exceeded her expectations.

For example, one of her class sessions this fall was conducted at City Hall with Debbie McNulty, Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs for the City of Houston.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities this program has given me,” she said. “I never would have had the chance to meet someone like Debbie McNulty without it!”