Art teacher creates mural for the city of Cotulla


Art instructor Gilberto Rocha teaches his 6th block art class, on February 25.

By Crystal Martinez, Vidal M. Trevino School of Communications and Fine Arts

It’s taken hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in paint so far, but the VMT art teacher/artist who’s painting the mural for Cotulla expects work to be finished by mid-year.

“I know it is a very special project for a lot of people. I don’t just want to finish it, I want to feel proud of it,” Gilberto Rocha said about painting the mural.

It all started when he was hired because he was recommended by Armando Hinojosa, a well-known artist, friend and a former VMT teacher who helped open the school in 1993.

Rocha said he took a few months to get an idea of what he wanted the mural to look like. It was not until late August when he actually started painting the mural.

When he found out he was painting a mural for the city of Cotulla, about 70 miles north of Laredo on I-35, he first told his parents, which made them really happy and proud for him, he said.

When he first told his friends they all just felt like it was a “stepping stone” for him, he said.

One challenge he faces is the size.

“The dimensions of the mural will be 14 feet in height and 96 feet wide,” Rocha said.

He is painting the mural on plywood sheets in his studio, which is located in Laredo. He will then take them to Cotulla and put assemble them on a wall. The building’s wall, 100 feet wide and 15 feet in height, is located in the middle of downtown.

That is equal to half a city block and as tall as a one-story building, he said.

He designed the mural to be a linear narrative, which is a timeline or something in chronological order.

So far, Rocha said he has spent about $12,000 in materials and doesn’t know how much paint he has been using, but “this is the first time I have actually ordered (paint) by the bucket.”

He has been using acrylic paint and different types of brushes; each brush is used for different textures and lines.

He has worked hundreds of hours on this mural so far, but said it should be done by May or maybe just a little bit into the summer.
The purpose of this mural is to attract tourists, he said.

Rocha discussed what plans Cotulla has for the mural.

“They plan to do a big ceremony to unveil the mural,” Rocha said.

The ceremony will take place downtown where the mural will be placed.

The mural includes a lot of scenes that describes Cotulla. For example, one image is of Joseph Cotulla, the founder of Cotulla, a painting of the new and old courthouse, a sheriff of Cotulla that was murdered, deer, and oil rigs.

“I don’t think there is one dominate image on the mural, but one that has an impact is the portrait of the founder; it starts with him. It’s a huge portrait; it almost takes the entire wall,” Rocha said. “It is the one that stands out the most because he was the founder, and so that’s where the story begins with his bravery, his way of thinking and being a pioneer,” Rocha added.

The manager of Cotulla Main Street hired Rocha to create the mural.

Cotulla Main Street is the organization in charge of renovating the downtown area and bringing tourists in, she said.

A mural would be a beautiful piece of art to add downtown and to draw people into downtown, Patsy Leigh, Cotulla Main Street manager and board member, said.

“The mural is something that will be there forever,” she said in a telephone interview.

The final cost will be $60,000, which the City of Cotulla will pay, she said.

Rocha explained what he hopes the mural will do for those who see it.

“Hopefully, the mural not only brings or inspires the people of Cotulla and tourists, but I hope that it also inspires my students,” Rocha said.