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by Quang Vu

In between our group conversations and the long sweltering summer drives we found time to familiarize ourselves with the almost indescribable places and food offered in Alief. From filling our bellies with El Salvadorian and Mexican dishes at Amaya’s family restaurant to viewing the details of the spiritual space of the Teo Chew Temple, we’ve noticed the many cultural spaces that exist in this area that we didn’t get to experience on our first few initial visits.

We’ve found ourselves becoming more comfortable navigating Alief and meeting with the people here both individually and as groups. Our team has attended several key programs and events in the area including attending out the Alief Super Neighborhood monthly meeting, visiting Representative Alma Allen, stopping by the International Management District, and walking around Hong Kong City Mall.

On Mondays, we’ve worked remotely from Zero Degrees one of our favorite pit stops, and have learned about local initiatives hosted by the YMCA International Service Team, including their upcoming art show and auction, Triumph of the Human Spirit, a yearly program that features the work of Houston-based refugee and immigrant artists.

As we branched further into southside Alief, we met with Ayub Hagi, the event and outreach coordinator for Helping Hands, and the performers at their annual Rhymes for Refugees, an open mic benefitting and raising awareness for the refugee crisis. There, we met individuals from the Islamic Art Society, the Islamic Spanish group, and the Houston Improv group who all were eager to talk with us.

While there’s still plenty of work to be done, the experience and knowledge we’ve learned from Project Freeway has so far been invaluable. As we move about in Alief we are constantly evaluating which actions or paths we should take.

Although there are still places we have yet to see, people we have yet to meet, and things we have yet to learn, we realize the significant growth this project already has made in little over a month.

There’s a sense of openness that has been fostered through Project Freeway and we want to make sure we continue to highlight the many unique voices that co-exist within the cultural regions that make up this diverse community.

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.