Lisa E. Sullivan, our beloved Founding Editor and her son Mushin had the opportunity a few years back to tour and paint at the now-legendary Kingspoint Mullet. While there, she met and got to know original visionary Johnathan Estes, and they two became friends. Just a short time later, Johnathan was tragically murdered in what is being called a robbery attempt. As far as we know, no arrests have ever been made. Here, she writes on this sadly departed artist and the impact his loss will have on the community.
Johnathan Estes - Gone But Not Forgotten
by Lisa E. Sullivan
Founding Editor, Rivethead Magazine
Andrew asked me to write this story a little over a week ago. I’ve tried to find the right words and it’s just not that simple.
Every once in a while someone comes along who truly inspires you... there’s an instant connection and you recognize that someone really amazing has entered your life. They bring a level of passion and commitment to what drives them and you wish you had that same energy.
Johnathan Estes was that kind of person.
I met Johnathan a couple of years ago after seeing some of the work at the Kingspoint Mullet on Facebook. He was bringing together local artists at an old abandoned building behind Alameda Mall and they were creating amazing murals inside and outside the building. Since David (Yammer, aka Kommando Poet – ed.) and I are both artists ourselves, I wanted to make a connection, initially to see if we could go down there and possibly paint a wall.
My son and I packed up our paint cans one Saturday and made the trek to check out Kingspoint. Johnathan met us out there. We became instant friends. He was warm and gracious, and introduced us to everyone on site, many who were busy creating new murals. We toured the building and then he let my son stake out a spot on the wall and begin his own project.
While my son painted, Johnathan and I talked and he told me how he had grown up on the streets on Houston; we discovered we knew a lot of the same people from back in the day. He shared his vision with me. He was launching a nonprofit and wanted Kingspoint to be a safe place for kids to hang out, paint, and engage in other creative outlets. He wanted to transform an area of Houston that desperately needed it.
Word got out. David and I, on occasions with his son and mine, made a few treks to Kingspoint and the place was always bustling with energy. One time we showed up and a group of kids had a pickup game of basketball going on inside the building. The Houston arts community got involved and the works expanded, with new creations going up all the time.
A little over a year ago, Johnathan got his hands on a piece of property on the Westheimer Curve. The place was abandoned and the owner turned the keys over to Johnathan and his friends who completely transformed the place. Previously inhabited by squatters the place was in horrendous shape. Johnathan and crew literally scraped shit off the floors and walls, bleached everything and began the massive cleanup and transformation effort. They made the place habitable and invited local artists to add their own personal touches.
The end result was a masterpiece. From the painting of Marilyn Monroe that adorned the front of the building and had passing traffic gawking, to lifelike portraits of Jim Morrison, day-glo spiders and giant whales, the place was truly a sight to behold. Johnathan was inspired and he was inspiring local artists. The place was constantly bustling with barbecues out back and live music and gatherings inside.
Johnathan had huge plans for the place, but unfortunately a few months ago, the owner decided to sell the property and Johnathan carried his vision back to Kingspoint. He continued to grow his projects there and eventually acquired a storefront where he based his operations.
Tragically, Johnathan’s life was cut short early last week. He was murdered in cold blood at his place in Kingspoint. Left behind were a huge legacy and a large, loving community of artists and friends who were inspired by his work. Devastated by their loss, they have vowed to pull together and finish what he started.
At his memorial last Friday, a local artist told of working on a mural at Kingspoint a couple of days after Johnathan died. A beautiful – and rather unusual – blue bird settled in while she worked and later flew away. Johnathan had a warm smile and caring blue eyes, and many in the audience that night believed that bird was a message from Johnathan that he is still with us.
And he is. His legacy remains in the work at Kingspoint… in the hearts of the Houston art community that loved him so dearly… in the two children he adored that are left behind… in the nonprofit that he founded to raise awareness about autism.
Johnathan’s life was cut short, but in his time here he accomplished things that many of us only dream of. Not because he had endless resources to pursue the things he wanted. Rather because he had a dream and the guts to pursue it, and the willingness to sacrifice many of life’s basic necessities to bring it to fruition. May we all aspire to such a life well lived.
Thank you, Johnathan Estes, for your gift of teaching so many of us what it truly means to live selflessly, to know your destiny, and to pursue it fearlessly. You will be missed.
Lisa “E” Sullivan
August 29, 2014
Read the Houston Press obit for this remarkable and tragically murdered community activist here:
Click here to enjoy Lisa E's photo gallery taken from her and Mushin's trip to the Mullet!
Remembering Johnathan Estes: A Tribute to the founder and original visionary behind The Kingspoint Mullet.
by Lisa E. Sullivan, Founding Editor