Michael Bergeron
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Art Blocks Main Street Promenade

Art Blocks Main Street Promenade
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When you think of a trip to downtown Houston the prospect doesn’t seem bountiful. Hard to find paid parking spaces before six pm. with streets congested with construction. Unless you live there or are present on business or the downtown theater scene or occasional concert why would you go there?

The Downtown District, funded since its inception in 1995 by a “special assessment on downtown property owners,” wants to turn that experience into a positive vibe.100_8394

At the exact center of downtown is a three-block promenade filled with interactive video screens and various art installations. The whole shebang goes by the moniker Art Blocks in Main Street Square in Downtown Houston.

Starting on the Northeast corner of Dallas and Main Street, in what was formerly the Sakowitz building (now a parking garage) are two video windows. A small hole on the left side of the window contains a camera hooked up to a system using complicated algorhythms to create art using your face.100_8399

“This is the same technology used in big cities with public cameras and facial recognition software,” says Zach Lieberman. “We’re using it to create art.” Lieberman installed the YesYesNo or más que la cara (more than the face) video displays. The televised images turn your face into a cubist construction, and the more you look at the camera (as opposed to the window itself) the more intriguing the designs become. This is interactive media at its coolest.

100_8402Next on the east side of the 1000 block of Main Street resides sculpture artist Patrick Renner’s Trumpet Flower, a kind of oblong wooden mushroom shaped display that will be lit at night and float over coffee tables.

Renner previously created the Funnel Tunnel that formerly resided on Montrose Boulevard. The vortex imagery calls the Imploded House or Tunnel House that was a one-time Montrose fixture.100_8403

At the corner of Main Street and McKinney, Jessica Stockholder has turned the Southeast intersection into a Day-Glo fusion of hard pastel color called Color Jam Houston. You can look at it from the street or you can look at it from one of several high-rise buildings that surround it.

Catty-corner stands a large mirror that you can use to take a selfie against the color jam background.

On the edge of the current renovation, at the corner of Main Street and Walker, the top floors of a building form a marquee with rotating art. Currently realized is Lightnin’ Fields, a recreation of a flyer for a 1975 Lightnin’Hopkins concert at Liberty Hall. Lightnin’ Fields will be on display until June. Subsequent marquees will include a giant bird on the wall entitled City Bird of Houston (October through December 2016) by Armando Castelan.100_8408

Art Blocks kicks off the renovation of this central downtown area on Saturday, April 16 (noon to 6 pm.), with the Big Bash. Food trucks, live performances headlined by The Suffers, and libations will be featured in an enclosed area.

— Michael Bergeron