JULY 24, 2018 by Ashley DeHoyos
by Ashley DeHoyos
Going into Project Freeway, our idea was to figure out what sort of creative communities exist outside of the Midtown/Inner Loop area where DiverseWorks is located. Eager to better understand the city’s cultural make-up and the areas that are often overlooked in the arts, the team decided early on to look at how the US 59 Freeway served as an entry and exit point into the city and explore the creative energy that exists beyond the central Houston area.
Up until now, Project Freeway hasn’t had any pre-determined goals or outcomes, instead it’s been about focusing on how we build relationships with artists and what types of support they may need, as well as assessing our institutional values. Instead of producing events and experiences as we have done in the past, this project has been specifically about stepping back and being present.
Working in a process mode and letting the outcomes be directed by the experience has been messy, awkward, and at times left us unsure of our direction but it’s also been informative, and created opportunities to say “Yes! that’s what we are interested in,” or “No that’s not what we are about.” At the same time, this process has created opportunities for us to build relationships with new individuals that did not know about DiverseWorks.
Showing up and having conversations has been vital. It has allowed us to reorient our thinking and build on the philosophy that process is key, community is core, and production does not equate to just large-scale programs or events.
Ashley DeHoyos is Assistant Curator at DiverseWorks and Project Manager of Project Freeway
JULY 12, 2018 by Ashley DeHoyos
The DiverseWorks team kicked off Project Freeway on June 13th, with a group field trip to Southwest Houston–Alief, Texas, the team’s home away from home for the next few weeks. Here we’ll explore, meet, and get to know the diverse communities that co-exist within the loose geographic boundaries of Beltway 8, US 59, Westpark Tollway, and Eldridge.
Our introductory visit revealed to us that Alief is home to clusters of cultural identities and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. As you enter the area, you’re immediately greeted by street signs that orient you in three languages, English, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Towards the center of town lies a community library that holds a plethora of books and resources in various languages, allowing children and the elderly to read side by side. In addition to the different languages highlighted across town, as we drove down Bellaire and Beechnut we were awed by the enormous variety of culturally specific restaurants.
Alief is a place that continues to surprise us. During our second visit, we had the pleasure of meeting with a local metal sculptor Eric Ober where we discussed his work and artistic practice; dined at a Chinese restaurant, Xiong Café, where we accidentally mixed up – and ate – each other’s dumplings; spoke with community health advocates working to better the sidewalks and walkability; and found our way into the blooming Alief community garden.
Hot and sticky most days, these trips have been met with welcoming arms and provided great insight. Through our fieldwork so far, we’ve recognized similarities to the larger geographic and cultural issues often found in Houston’s art communities. The neighborhoods and the people who live here offer a breadth of generational backgrounds, interests, and cultures. Whether it be language barriers, the shape of neighborhood lines, or predisposed cultural perceptions, we are becoming aware of how easily divisions can take shape and form siloed sub-communities.
Through this project, we’ve been pushing ourselves to think non-traditionally about the word art and the idea of space. In Alief, we hope by continuing our visits and better educating ourselves on the values and traditions hidden in this community that we continue to open our definitions and practices, while at the same time finding ways to encourage connections and community collaboration.
As we prepare for our next visit, we’ll meet individual artists from different disciplines, who have a history with Alief through their work or family in order to begin deepening our connections in the area.
photos by Ronald Jones
JULY 5, 2018 by Jenn
In addition to DiverseWorks staff members Xandra Eden, Ashley DeHoyos, and Jennifer Gardner, DW has engaged artists and interns as integral members of the Project Freeway team. We’re thrilled to have their enthusiasm, expertise, and diverse viewpoints as we embark on this endeavor.
Erin Carty, Project Coordinator
Erin is a multidisciplinary artist and a Master’s of Fine Arts candidate in Painting and Drawing at the University of Houston, who utilizes painting, photography, video, and screen-printing in her work. Her work focuses on the idea of liminal space, boundaries, transitionary spaces, and multiple layers of existence of the whole and the individual. Due to a minor in psychology in her undergraduate career, Erin is interested in how the individual relates to themselves, others, and their environments.
Quang Vu, Marketing & Neighborhood Expert
Quang Vu is currently a senior at the University of Houston’s Katherine G. Mcgovern College of the Arts pursuing a Bachelors of Fine Arts with a concentration in painting and a triple minor in art history, business administration, and excellence in sales. Quang is strongly devoted to fine arts and business and actively seeks to marry the two in ways that contribute to the people and the institutions that keep the Houston art community thriving. Additionally, Quang is a mixed-media painter who makes work that explores queer politics and his personal identity. He grew up in Alief.
Ronald L. Jones, Production & Documentation Coordinator
Ronald L. Jones is a multidisciplinary artist based in Houston, Texas, whose artistic practice incorporates photography and video, drawing and printmaking, and sculptural yarn installations.
Jones’s work explores themes such as the barriers between artists and audiences, individuals and their communities and the perceived normalcy of everyday life by seeking out and presenting unique perspectives.
Courtney Khim, Intern
Courtney Khim is currently a senior at the University of Houston’s Katherine G. McGovern College of Arts pursuing a Bachelors of Arts with a double minor in Art History and German. Courtney is a mixed-media painter who is extremely interested in the relationship between color and identity. As an art historian, her focus is in modern and contemporary art.
Sophie Leung-Wolf, Intern
Sophie Leung-Wolf is a rising senior at Rice University where she is pursuing dual degrees in vocal performance (BM) and cognitive sciences (BA). She is a multifaceted artist and performer with experience in classical voice as well as sculpture and photography. To combine her diverse interests she strives to integrate contemporary art and music.