2020 Mural Renovation Project - University of Houston
Skip to main content


One of the first experiences visitors have when entering the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work is encountering the large colorful mural facing the building’s former primary entrance.

The original mural was commissioned by former Dean Ira Colby shortly after joining the College in Fall 1999. Dean Colby connected with local Houston community artist Reginald Adams to explore the vision of artwork being a larger part of the college to help facilitate connections with both the local community and the Houston social service community. Adams's work in the surrounding community and his strong belief and commitment to accessible art as well as his belief that art should be available to everyone from all backgrounds regardless of socioeconomic or status made him a natural fit to carry forth the vision of the project. 

The original concept aimed to capture the journey of students who graduated and then began their journeys into the community where they would contribute to individuals and organizations. The mural, which covers 7 interior walls in the building, captures the likenesses of people within the College at the time of its creation. The featured faces are based on actual students, faculty, and alumni at that time.

The total time for construction took almost a year, starting with conversations, feedback, and engagement with the community followed by its production over a 4 to 5 month period.on March 31, 2000 Pulling Together a tile mosaic mural by Reginald Adams was dedicated at the UH Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW), its name at the time of creation which would later become the UH Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) as it is now known.  


  • Covers seven interior walls in the lobby of the GCSW
  • Life-sized people pulling the chains of oppression that prevent entry into a world characterized by Social and Economic Justice for All.
  • Many of the people depicted were faculty, students, staff, and community members of the GCSW. The artist is known for inserting images of real people.
  • A crowd struggles to open doors that reveal a brilliant sphere rising above the horizon. That circular form, a symbol of the highest level of knowledge and understanding of oneself, was created using pieces of broken mirror in which viewers of the mural see their own reflections – you too are a part of the mural, and also a part of the struggle for justice


The mural has become its own character in the story of the Graduate College of Social Work, serving as part greeter, historian, storyteller, facilitator of belonging, and a reminder of our mission and the important work to be done together.

In 2019, thanks to a generous legacy gift from The Frees Foundation, artist Reginald Adams was recommissioned to reimagine his original work and update the mural's theme such that “it would be exactly what people remember but also fresher, with a means of reengaging the common community. Through its renovation, it will bring new life and fresh conversations about the vision and mission of the College."

Adams and his team of artists, met with GCSW Dean Alan Dettlaff and administration to learn about how the GCSW has evolved, changed, and even remained the same. The collaboration between Adams and the GCSW meshed the artist's vision with the vision of the College and its modern day priorities and focus on serving those most vulnerable as well as challenging systems of oppression  with the ultimate goal of achieving social, racial, economic, and political justice, local to global. 

Due to the challenges posed by Covid-19, the project, which was completed in Spring 2021 had a slightly different completion path and less direct community involvement as originally conceived. However, as part of the GCSW's first floor renovation project, it remains a centerpiece and point of pride at the GCSW where it serves as both memory and inspiration. Meant to evoke conversations, and questions, as well as prominently display our values, the reimagined mural shares the message of social work and its commitment to dismantling systems of oppression. The new iteration of our mural invites GCSW students, faculty, and staff as well as the University and broader community to share with us the challenge to attain freedom and justice for all. 


  • Covers seven interior walls in the lobby of the GCSW
  • Distinct representations of areas of justice that social workers address e.g. political justice, economic justice, racial justice, etc
  • At its core, a singular stone symbolizes the unifying essence, binding together all elements within the mural. When the two majestic golden doors at the mural's heart swing open, they unveil a dazzling burst of light and color, encased by glass portraits of the artists responsible for its creation. As visitors step into the college, gazing upon their reflections, they seamlessly integrate into the artwork—true reflections of light and color.