ArtFeaturesGayest & GreatestGayest & Greatest 2023

Beyond the Canvas

Katharine Ligon’s artistic and activist odyssey.

Katharine Ligon (Photo by Taylor McWhorter)


“It all begins with a canvas,” says artist Katharine Ligon. And over time, that canvas becomes a calming mixture of bright colors and warm tones that inspires feelings of joy and serenity. Ligon, who was voted Houston’s Gayest & Greatest Female Artist by OutSmart magazine in both 2021 and 2022, sees her art as a “physical representation of [her] voice.” Her artwork can be found throughout the Houston area, including in the prestigious Houston Club and work spaces such as Serendipity Labs. It comes as no surprise, then, that she was voted this year’s Favorite Fine Artist and Favorite Local Female Painter.

A native Houstonian, Ligon’s passion for art started as a child. She enjoyed making doodle drawings for family and friends, a practice she continued when she entered the workforce, often surprising co-workers with fun doodles she would leave on their desks. Those fun doodles eventually propelled her into painting as a way to relax while working in high-stress jobs. In 2020, Ligon left the traditional job setting of social services and started building her art career. “My hands have been covered in paint ever since,” she says.

Ligon’s general approach to painting is “Mess Around and Find Out.” She believes in having no expectation of the outcome and says that “sometimes it works and sometimes ends up with a mess.” But regardless, she really loves the process.

Currently Ligon is developing two new series of works called WANDER and A Message To Myself. “The WANDER series,” she says, “is inspired by the idea of movement without a specific purpose, and the Message series includes visual reminders to ‘Be Gentle, Be Patient, Be Kind’ with ourselves.”

But Ligon is more than just a painter. She is also heavily involved in social justice and the Houston community, something inspired by her parents who both volunteered with Omega House (now Bering Omega Community Services), the first residential hospice in Texas, known for serving individuals dying of AIDS. Her parents would sit at the bedside of those who were left alone because their families had abandoned them due to the stigma of the disease. Katharine’s father said that he just wanted to “hold a person’s hand so they did not have to die alone,” and this stuck with Ligon.

Over the years, Ligon has worked tirelessly both in Houston and around the world. She has helped children and families affected by social injustices (e.g., oppression, poverty, and inaccessible mental-health and substance-use treatment). She’s volunteered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras—a country with an extensive history of being locked into a cycle of poverty. She’s worked at Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas, a home for girls (from newborn to young adult) who were mostly abandoned and/or abused by their families who were frequently experiencing extreme poverty. And she’s worked at DePelchin Center as the Placement Supervisor for Child Welfare.

One of Ligon’s greatest achievements came while at Every Texan, a policy think tank that focuses on how Texans of all backgrounds can fulfill their potential and contribute to our community. While there, Ligon developed and managed a project that uses mental-health peer-support services in local jails to support recovery, improve continuity of care, and reduce recidivism for people with mental illness during the process of re-entering into their community upon release from incarceration. These “peers” are individuals who have a lived experience of mental illness and have gone through a recovery process, providing mentorship and support to another individual with mental illness currently in recovery. The peer re-entry project’s success and effectiveness largely depended on building and fostering relationships and a thoughtful and strategic legislative campaign to develop and implement three peer-support re-entry pilot programs in Texas. Due to the data demonstrating a positive human and fiscal impact, the State of Texas continues to fund the program, for which she is very grateful and proud.

Ligon believes that “we are all better when we all do better,” and over the course of her career, she has done just that. She has worked with important organizations and community leaders, and since Houston is home, she has committed to continuing volunteering and donating locally. She believes that Houston offers opportunities for everyone and says, “the only way to ensure that we all have opportunity is to elect candidates that value and fight for equality, equity, and justice.” And this isn’t just something she preaches. She has put that into practice as a longstanding member of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus and served on the Board of Directors from 2019 to 2022.

At home, Ligon is happily married to her wife, Megan, whom she has been with since 2005 and married in 2015. They have an “aggressively affectionate” kitty, Sir Samuel Snugglesworth, and a smart and playful pup, Clover McCuddlesworth. They love cooking, traveling, gardening, and spending time with friends and family, including their “Fairy Godchildren.” 

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David Brasher

David Brasher received his Masters degree in English from the University of Louisiana. He has contributed to national publications such as Instinct Magazine and Buzzfeed as well as local publications in Nashville. He moved to Houston in 2022 and spends his free time watching CNN and listening to true crime podcasts.
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