Since Harvey plummeted Houston and those cities surrounding, so many individuals have been picking up the pieces to rebuild for their families and businesses. We have seen one of the most beautiful and selfless outpouring of support through a multitude of volunteer projects, mountains of donations, and incredible rescue efforts. One large portion of the community that has been sifting through flooded materials are the creatives of our city. Many artists, who rely on art as income, as teaching tools, and more, have lost canvases with hours of labor painted on them along with other pieces and supplies that are incredibly costly. Looking to help these individuals get back on their feet has been a major priority for one non-profit organization and so the idea of #TexasArtistStrong: Pop-up Exhibition and Fundraiser by Texas Artists for Texas Artists was quickly established.
Taking place Saturday, Sept. 9 from 2 pm to 7 pm at Spring Street Studios, this one-day juggernaut of an exhibition will feature works by local artists available for purchase. Each artist involved will donate a portion of the proceeds from their art sale to support artists throughout Texas who were affected by Harvey. The beauty of this exhibition is that the materials that will be hanging on the walls throughout Spring Street will be the same items reciprocated through the generous donations. Fresh Arts will distribute funds to a selection of artists who apply, allowing them to rebuild studios, preserve work, purchase supplies, and most of all, continue their mission as a creative even after such a devastating storm.
Fresh Arts Executive Director Marci Dallas has noted the magnitude of response from those across the country wanting to help. Working closely with Grace Zuñiga, artist liaison and exhibitions coordinator for Sawyer Yards where Spring Street Studios is located, along with other generous souls within Saywer Yards and beyond, they have quickly mobilized efforts to make this well-deserved show happen.
Another major force in this exhibition is Cheri Randolph, artist and exhibition director of Spring Street Studio. Randolph is an all encompassed artist. She holds a degree in Art History from University of New Orleans and has also served as a guest lecturer for New Orleans Art Museum. She began to professionally exhibit her photography seven years ago and focuses mainly on interesting shots discovered during her travels in the U.S. and Europe. Lending her curatorial eye and giving spirit, Randolph has been thrilled to be a part of this relief exhibition.
“The overwhelming sentiment expressed during the storm was, ‘What can we do as an artist community to help fellow Texans and especially artists in Texas who have suffered as a result of Hurricane Harvey?’”, says Randolph. “Although our recent collective exhibition at Spring Street had not quite completed its scheduled run, we felt that this cause was so important that we had to dive in and make sure that it happened. This necessitated removing our tenant exhibition to provide gallery space for the “#TexasArtistsStrong” Exhibit. Daniel Elliott, manager of Jerry’s Artarama, summed the whole idea up for me as he was viewing the exhibition. He said, ‘This exhibit is important because it is helping ‘US’ — not people who are removed from our community but artists we know personally. That’s why I had to contribute two paintings myself as well as offer to provide replacement canvas at no cost to artists who donated 100 percent of the sale of their work to this relief effort.’”
The most striking theme that runs through this exhibition is the fact that many of these artists who donated are ones that were directly impacted by Harvey. Despite losing often a career span of work and thousands in supplies, they still showed up to donate and participate for this cause. Their hands that made the work are the same hands that will be in a way rebuilding their fellow artists’ lives. “I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our Houston artists,” states Randolph. “There are 302 pieces of art in the exhibit, and each piece was donated to help another artist who lost their current work, their supplies or perhaps even their home. Their support makes me proud to be a member of the art community in Houston.”
With such a multitude of works, Randolph had to come up with a curatorial plan quickly to arrange the works along the halls of Spring Street. The exhibition includes work by artists Tommy Gregory, Felipe Lopez, Janavi Folmsbee, Syd Moen, Teresa L Stanley, Kimono Zulu, Dandee Warhol, and so many more. Her receiving eye and thematic knowledge has brought this exhibition to life, and the result will definitely show on Saturday.
“The objective of the curator is to establish a dialog between the art and the viewer,” notes Randolph. “We ask ourselves, ‘How can the works be arranged so that those who tour the exhibit will not only enjoy looking at individual works, but also will engage with the art in an unexpected way?’ The arrangement of the work then becomes a work of art in itself. I had not seen these pieces of art before they poured into the building on Wednesday, however, I noticed that a conversation soon began to be established between the pieces.
I wanted to have fun with the art and the viewers. I enjoyed placing a delicate and shapely young ballerina, who is showing a surprised expression, in close proximity to an aging ‘Wonder Woman,’ a bas relief alligator sculpture complete with carpentry-nail teeth chasing several marathon swimmers who are surrounded by sharks, an Irish lass with flaming red hair and a piercing gaze juxtaposed against a woman reading who has no discernible face at all. I would encourage exhibition visitors to interpret for themselves the relationship of line, color, shape or message which might connect the individual pieces.”
Included in this event will be an artist talk taking place at 3 p.m. in the center corridor of the exhibit. Also, Black Swan Screen Printing will be printing live for those who would like a special “Texas Strong” or “Houston Strong” shirt designed by Tina Lara Fink. Bring a t-shirt and donate $5 to the Disaster Relief Fund for Texas Artists to get the special print.
For those unable to attend the exhibition and fundraising event, Fresh Arts will be using its digital fundraising platform to allow those interested in supporting Texas artists to donate directly to the Immediate Relief Fund online. Similar events are also planned across Texas, and donations raised from those efforts will also go into the fund. Through this fund, affected artists will be able to apply for funding, and a review panel will decide how the funding will be distributed. 100 percent of funds raised will go directly into the hands of the impacted artists.
#TexasArtistStrong: Pop-up Exhibition and Fundraiser by Texas Artists for Texas Artists takes place on Saturday, Sept. 9 from 2 pm to 7 pm at Spring Street Studios located at 1824 Spring Street. For more information, visit www.fresharts.org