Colorful New Montrose Mural Celebrates Cancer Survivor

By | August 31, 2015
Courtesy of Stathis Kafoglis / Living + Icon Productions

The billboard-size mural shows a young woman with wavy brown hair, chartreuse eyes, and thick-rimmed glasses looking up at a Monarch butterfly floating peacefully across a baby-blue sky. Painted on the side of a vacant building on the northwestern corner of Marconi Street and West Gray, just a half-block from Montrose Boulevard, the mural is the latest work of public art in an area that, earlier this year, was the site of Patrick Renner’s Funnel Tunnel sculpture.

The mural was the brainchild of Montrose developer, contractor, and broker Stathis Kafoglis, who leased the building on which it was painted. While he hasn’t decided what to do with the space, he wanted to use one of the walls as an outdoor canvas. “Since I was paying money to rent it, I thought I at least want to do something nice for the community,” he said.

Earlier this summer, Kafoglis found the perfect artist for the project when he met painter Natalia Victoria at the grand opening of Midtown Bar and Grill’s new outdoor mini-mural gallery. Three of Victoria’s works were featured in the inaugural show. “We connected right away” Kafoglis said. “She’s got a spunk and an energy, and there was just something about her.”

Kafoglis and Victoria spent the next few weeks brainstorming ideas for the mural. Then, one day, Victoria called and said she had the perfect subject—a 23-year-old woman she knew named Kenya Paopao who had studied dance at Lone Star College in Kingwood. Kenya’s mother had died of thyroid cancer a few years back; in her will, she requested that her daughter get tested for the same disease. Although reluctant, Kenya got tested and found out that she, too, had thyroid cancer. She immediately went into treatment and today is in remission.

Kenya struck Kafoglis and Victoria as a relatable person who could inspire people with her courage and perseverance, so they decided to design the mural around her. “Kenya’s not some Hollywood superstar—she’s just an ordinary, average person,” he said. “To have that as an icon for people who are struggling, going through hard times, it’s already helped a lot of people.”

For her part, Victoria was eager to paint Kenya’s face. “The way her eyes shine with enthusiasm…her smile is so genuine, her eyes are genuine,” Victoria said. “She’s one of the few people I’ve seen who have that kind of beauty.” They set up a photo shoot at Smith’s Opticians, a sponsor of the mural, where Kenya posed with a pair of glasses—despite the fact that she doesn’t normally wear them. The glasses represent the woman’s unique perspective on the world, according to Victoria.

Victoria then printed the photo, divided it into a grid, and painted Kenya’s image, freehand, on the clapboard siding of Kafoglis’s building, adding in details like the butterfly and the blue sky. At the bottom she signed the mural and wrote “Dedicated to Bella”—Bella being Victoria’s nickname for Kenya. As for the butterfly, Victoria explained that artists have historically used them as a symbol of hope:

“Butterflies represent new beginnings. And every day is a new beginning.”

The Kenya Project mural is on view at the corner of Marconi Street and West Gray in Montrose. For more information, check out #lipservice and #thekenyaproject on Facebook and Instagram. 


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District provided services such as safety patrols by off-duty HPD officers, graffiti abatement, trash pick-up, maintenance of esplanades, among other services outlined in the Districts’ Assessment Plan, that are supplemental to services provided by the City of Houston, had been reduced in Mid-November and ceased completely as of December 11. The District had to cease the services due to unpaid assessments from some of the commercial property owners within the District. Delinquent assessments for 2016 and prior years are being collected for services that were delivered in 2017. The current lawsuit status does not affect the collection of delinquent assessments due for 2016 and prior years for services rendered for calendar year 2017. Please direct questions regarding the cessation of services to Executive Director, Ben Brewer at We are committed to helping our neighborhood remain the safe, vibrant and attractive place to live and do business and would like to hear from you on how we can continue to work together in this effort.