Diverse Works logo with white background linked to the home page.

OUR STORY

In the early 1980’s, Houston began to be recognized for the diversity of the city’s culture, while at the same time, in the words of DiverseWorks Founder Charles Gallagher, “a developing collision between artists and a stifling institutional environment exposed the need for an independent artist-run organization and gave urgency to our hearts and hands.” Gallagher and artists Billy Hassell and Doug Laguarta imagined that a Civil War-Era armory and dry goods store located at 214 Travis Street could be the home for such an organization. In December of 1982, we were incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, free from any individual or singular direction, and diverse in artistic forms, media, discipline, and content.

Over the course of 1982-83, Gallagher, Hassell, Laguarta along with many other artists including Deborah and Virgil Grotfeldt and Melissa Noble, volunteered their time and talents to create a professional space for exhibitions, video screenings, music, performances, and community forums. In the following years, the upper floors were renovated to include artists’ studios and in 1984 Doug Laguarta, Beth Secor, James Bettison, Lisa Shoyer, Billy Hassell, and Don Redman became the first Artists-in-Residence. In November 1985, DiverseBooks opened, solidifying our role as a community gathering place for all sectors of the arts community.

During these years on Travis Street, the staff grew to include Deborah Grotfeld, Michael Peranteau, and Caroline Huber, with Peranteau and Huber becoming co-directors in 1987 when Gallagher left to pursue his own artistic career.

On February 9, 1989, a devastating fire rendered the Travis Street location uninhabitable and DiverseWorks relocated to a large warehouse space just north of downtown at 1117 East Freeway, which would remain our home until 2012. At East Freeway (also known as The Docks). This new space included gallery and performance areas as well as a new iteration of DiverseBooks which sponsored PhoneWorks, a phone-in poetry-reading service, for many years. Following Peranteau and Huber’s respective departures, key administrative and artistic leaders were Emily Todd, Sara Kellner, Loris Bradley, Sixto Wagan, and Diane Barber. Elia Arce, The Art Guys, Pat Graney, Rachel Hecker, David McGee, Suzan-Lori Parks, William Pope.L, and Urban Bush Women are just a few of the hundreds of artists whose work was presented at the Docks.

In 2012, Elizabeth Dunbar became Executive Director, and, with the building in need of repairs and intending to eventually move into the soon-to-be-completed MATCH—Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, we moved to a smaller warehouse space at Fannin and Cleburne Streets in Midtown. Also at this time, Rachel Cook joined as Assistant Curator, becoming Curator in 2016. New commissions presented at Fannin included works by Tony Feher, Liz Magic Laser, Heather & Ivan Morison, and Wu Tsang, among others. It was also at Fannin where the long-running Diverse Discourse Lecture & Studio Visit Program began.

In 2015, Xandra Eden became Executive Director & Chief Curator. She added Ashley DeHoyos Sauder to the team as Curator in 2018 following Rachel Cook’s departure. Also in 2015, we moved into the new multi-tenant MATCH facility where we have presented in the gallery, all four theater spaces, and the breezeway. Among the artists presented at MATCH are Jocelyn Cottencin & Emmanuelle Huynh, Li(sa E.) Harris, Kate Gilmore & Heather Rowe, Autumn Knight, taisha paggett, Sheila Pepe, Sondra Perry, and Nick Vaughan & Jake Margolin. In 2023, we celebrated our 40th Anniversary and artist James Surls’ 80th Birthday with a major outdoor sculpture exhibition, A Gift from the Bower, on the grounds of Locke Surls Center for Art in Nature @ Splendora Gardens in Cleveland, Texas.

While located at MATCH, we have also become committed to decentralizing the Houston contemporary arts community and taking an adaptive approach to physical space. To that end, we developed the Project Freeway initiative, producing performances and projects in a variety of neighborhoods and unconventional sites across the city. Artists take the lead, in conversation with DeHoyos Sauder and Eden, in deciding where and how their projects will be presented to the public.

Since our founding, we have remained steadfastly committed to artists, always advocating for equitable pay and becoming W.A.G.E. certified in 2014. We are committed to equity and diversity in the arts and take a focused approach to creating internal structural change, providing leadership opportunities for LGBTQI+ and BIPOC artists, and working to decentralize the geographic focus of the arts in Houston. Commissions of local, national, and international artists facilitate relationships between Houston artists and the larger contemporary art world. Community collaborations are a vital part of our work and we encourage both risk-taking and developing sustainable practices. At our core, DiverseWorks supports the development of new artists’ projects that explore complex ways of thinking about art and social change, while inviting the public to participate in our process.

MISSION

DiverseWorks produces and presents new multidisciplinary art through innovative collaborations with artists and communities. We honor each artist’s vision without limits to generate expansive art experiences and learning for all.

VISION

DiverseWorks believes that contemporary art has the power to shape our world. We envision a just, free, and equitable society where the arts are essential to our everyday lives.

By supporting creative action, DiverseWorks will:

  • be a leader among artist-centered organizations in presenting compelling art that has local, national, and international relevance
  • commission instigative artworks, initiate unlikely collaborations, and curate inventive exhibitions, performances, and public programs
  • foster civic participation, cross-cultural understanding, systemic change, and innovation
  • encourage expansive approaches to where art is seen and experienced
  • and take risks and present work that otherwise might not be realized

VALUES

Freedom of Expression
Artistic Process
Transparency
Collaboration
Curiosity
Justice

JUSTICE STATEMENT

DiverseWorks believes that art has the power to shape our world. We commit to using our platform to advance justice not only in the creative space but with regard to all aspects of society.

We commit to offering and supporting creative environments that are welcoming and accessible to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability, or any other form of identity. We believe that access to art and freedom of expression is a basic human right, and we commit to removing barriers to engaging with our organization for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances.

We acknowledge and recognize the existence of systemic discrimination, inequality, and inequity. Historically the arts industry has not only reflected these cultural and societal injustices it has also perpetrated them. As a commissioner, producer, and presenter it is our responsibility to actively work against the current systemic barriers to representation and accessibility currently present in our field.

This means actively working to:

  • Commission and present artists who represent a diverse range of perspectives, experiences, disciplines and modalities
  • Support leadership and mentoring opportunities for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, and Non-Binary (LGBTQIA+) artists and emerging arts professionals
  • Collaborate with and support local communities and organizations that share our values and prioritize contracting BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and women-owned businesses
  • Adopt an intentional recruitment and retention strategy to ensure racial, ethnic, and age diversity among the staff, board of directors, and committee members
  • Ensure our facilities and programs are accessible for people with disabilities and varying abilities
  • Engage in cultural equity, restorative justice, and anti-racist training for staff and board
  • Participate in local, regional, and national advocacy supportive of systemic change
  • Develop organizational methods to support Climate Justice
  • Create a workplace environment and culture that supports a work-life balance, offers comprehensive benefits, and creates opportunities for all employees to maximize their potential
  • Engage in internal evaluations of our policies, practices, and programs; and take immediate actions to address any disparities or inequities revealed

We acknowledge that our commitment to justice must be ongoing. This is a living document that will be reviewed annually and is subject to change as we recalibrate to our successes and failures, and as new issues emerge or take on new urgency.

OPPORTUNITIES

INTERNSHIPS

Interns play a crucial role at DiverseWorks and gain a wide range of experience in production, marketing, visitor services, curatorial research, and nonprofit management. Interns also participate, along with the entire staff, in a reading group in order to get to know one another and facilitate a deeper understanding of contemporary art spaces and practices. Generally, we engage 1-3 interns in the fall and spring semesters for 10 hours per week. Interns receive a modest stipend and we encourage current college students and recent graduates of all backgrounds to apply. To apply, email a resume and cover letter with the subject heading – Internship 2024-25 to [email protected].

VOLUNTEER

DiverseWorks is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to assist with exhibition openings, special events, and exhibition installation. To be added to our volunteer email list, please email DiverseWorks with the word Volunteer in the subject line.

OUR STAFF

Ashley DeHoyos Sauder

CURATOR

Ashley organizes a full range of visual, performing, and public arts programming at DiverseWorks. In addition to their role as curator, she also manages the Diverse Discourse Lecture and Studio Visit Program and co-organizes The Idea Fund, a regranting program co-administered by DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses, funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts. Ashley received a BFA from Sam Houston State University (2013) and an MFA in Curatorial Practice from Maryland Institute College of Art (2016). She joined DiverseWorks in 2018.

Xandra Eden

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Xandra manages DiverseWorks’ operations and artistic program. Her focus is on artists who address complex socio-political issues through experimental, performative, and community-driven practices. She was formerly Curator of Exhibitions at the Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (2005-2015) and Assistant Curator at The Power Plant, Toronto (1999-2005). She has also held positions at the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York and Women & Their Work Gallery, Austin. She holds a BFA from the State University of New York- Purchase (1990) and an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (1999).

Jennifer Gardner

DEPUTY DIRECTOR

Jenn’s responsibilities include communications, development/fundraising, and patron relations. She joined DiverseWorks in 2012, immediately undertaking a major rebranding initiative while also coordinating DW’s move to Midtown. She loves supporting curators and artists to realize their visions, writing, and participating in strategic initiatives. Prior to her time at DiverseWorks, she spent a decade at Arthouse at the Jones Center in Austin, Texas (now the Contemporary Austin) where she initiated their long-running Teen Council program and held the positions of Education Coordinator, Development Associate, and Special Projects Manager. She received a BA in Art History from Connecticut College (1996), and completed Graduate-level course work in Museum Education and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Eva Martinez

OPERATIONS & MARKETING DIRECTOR

Eva supports internal operations, marketing, publicity, and justice initiatives. Eva has a background in digital marketing, having worked at several acquired startups in Silicon Valley before transitioning into a career in art administration. Eva is a creative thinker who is familiar with a broad range of contemporary art practices and is happy to be a part of the Houston art community. She received a BA and MA in Social Psychology from Stanford University and an MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

OUR BOARD

Board of Directors 2023-24

Francis Almendárez

Natalye L. Appel, FAIA > Secretary

Ignacio Carrion > treasurer

CEO, The Master Caregiver Company

Abimbola Farinde, PhD > VICE PRESIDENT

Professor, Columbia Southern University

Ryan Hawk > VP Artist Advisory Committee

Artist

Mahenou Ilahi

Artist and Community Advocate

Koomah

Artist and Executive Director, Houston Intersex Society

Frederick Rhodes

Client Success Manager, Norton Rose Fulbright

Troy Schaum

ANTHONY J. SUBER > PRESIDENT

TEK WILSON > Chair

Artist

Artist Advisory Committee 2023-24

The Artist Advisory Committee is composed of artist members of the Board of Directors and artist community members.

Together, they advise and support our curatorial programming. The AAC supports DiverseWorks in our artistic and community collaborations by providing key insights from the field and across the city.

Francis Almendárez

Bennie Flores Ansell

Ryan Hawk > Vice President

Mahenou Ilahi

Koomah

Anthony J. Suber

Jadd Tank 

Sindhu Thirumalaisamy

Y.E. Torres

Tek Wilson