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One of the most exciting and rewarding things about our work at HAA is being a part of this dynamic, quickly growing city.  Through our many programs and relationships, HAA is a catalytic partner in advancing Houston to becoming a 21st century global city.

Great cities are, first and foremost, great places for people.  And although we feel like our city is changing at the speed of light, real change takes decades.  With the recent passing of Peter C. Marzio, long-time director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and HAA founding board member, our city - and our country - have lost an arts visionary and a civic leader. Dr. Marzio advanced the importance of the arts in civic life, education and public space.  We honor his great gift of time and leadership to our city.
Great public spaces,  important architecture and extraordinary public art build a dynamic city with global appeal.  Through our Civic Art & Design Program, HAA is an active partner in bringing artists' expertise to create exiting projects in Houston's public spaces. In this newsletter we're pleased to report on a few benchmark Civic Art projects coming to fruition in the next few months and the development of our Temporary Civic Art initiatives.
All the best for the holidays -

JG newsletter
Jonathon D. Glus
President and CEO, Houston Arts Alliance
From the Chairman of Board: Remembering Dr. Peter Marzio 

marzioIt is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Dr. Peter Cort Marzio.  In addition to his extraordinary 28-year directorship of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, he was a founding board member of the Houston Arts Alliance, and an active supporter of and advocate for Houston's thriving, diverse arts community.
Dr. Marzio, a native New Yorker, came to Houston from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC.  Under his leadership, the MFAH flourished.  Its collection grew from 13,000 to more than 62,000 works, and attendance soared from 380,000 to more than 2 million people a year. Between the Kinder Foundation Education Center, the Kilroy Education Center at Bayou Bend, and the Glassell School, education expanded dramatically. As did the museum's endowment and its physical campus.
In addition to his tremendous accomplishments at the MFAH, Marzio was a leading voice in crafting ArtWorks, the city's 1990s cultural plan, and Houston Framework, the public art plan from which the city's percent for art program was established.  He actively engaged elected officials, artists, patrons and community leaders in discussions about the importance of art in public space, most specifically in the Buffalo Bayou corridor and Memorial Park.
A highly visible leader, Peter provided a great deal of support to the larger arts community, especially small museums and cultural centers.  One testament to these efforts that were so important to him is the MFAH's ongoing, in-kind aid to the burgeoning Museum of African American Art & Culture, which was administratively housed at the MFAH before moving into its own facility just this past month.
Given his love of the outdoors and commitment to the betterment of our public realm, it is particularly timely to have this tribute in this newsletter about Civic Art & Design.  We are a better city and a more prosperous arts community because of Peter Marzio.  His legacy is all around us.

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Marshal Lightman
Chairman of the Board, Houston Arts Alliance
Featuring the Civic Art & Design Department 

Civic Art, which is synonymous with Public Art, comes in many forms.   In ancient cities public art existed in the form of frescoes, fountains, bas reliefs and noble sculptures of political and religious leaders. In New York, the layered traditions of public art include transit murals, signage-based lighting projects in Times Square, highly significant sculpture in corporate plazas and temporary exhibitions throughout the city's parks and public spaces.  Chicago and Philadelphia have great traditions of monumental outdoor sculpture. Los Angeles and the west coast value functional artwork,  artworks highly integrated into architectural design, and artist-designed environments, such as playgrounds and plazas. Participatory public art projects are a cornerstone to Civic Art programs in the Pacific Northwest.

When Houston established a public art program in the 1990s, its name reflected its intent: to create a program that brings artists to the design process for a myriad of public environments: airports, libraries, cultural facilities, community centers and parks, as well as infrastructure.  Good architecture and design can be greatly enhanced by art (be it door handles, signage, flooring or other functional objects, or art objects such as sculpture, video or photography).  The most successful public art pieces are those of high quality construction and design.

HAA is committed to making our city's public spaces engaging centers that foster human interaction.  Everything we do is through partnership.  Our primary partner is the City of Houston, whose art collection of 430 works HAA manages and conserves,  and on whose behalf we develop civic artwork. This is possible through the Percent for Art Program, which identifies 1.75% of eligible capitol improvement funds for aesthetic enhancement of public facilities and spaces. We also works with other governmental agencies, private organizations and non-profits to bring Civic Art, both temporary and permanent, to our public spaces. 

Importantly, Civic Art enhances public spaces and reflects our values as a community. It also provides a building enterprise that generates jobs and boosts the economy in our community.  We are proud that more than a dozen Civic Art projects have come to fruition in the last year. 2011 will bring even more.  This newsletter offers an overview of some of our most exciting projects. 

Pictured above: ART/LIFE!, Bert Long; Open Channel Flow, Matthew Geller; Trojan Bear, Ben Love, Take-Off, Carter Ernst and Paul Kittleso

The Economics of Civic Art
Contractors assemble Buvoli's Vector HH
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Why is Civic Art important to Houston? Many reasons, not the least of which its robust economic impact.
In today's times of fiscal restraint, what needs to be emphasized is that the city's Civic Art program creates local jobs.  And these are creative economy jobs - the jobs of tomorrow.  For each artwork, an artist is contracted to design, fabricate and install the piece. When a local artist is commissioned, 100% of the money can remain in the local economy.  When an artist from outside of Houston is commissioned, up to 90% of the project funds remain in the local economy.
Civic artists are designers and builders, not simply artists who place objects in public spaces. To complete a project, artists employ engineers, architects, and fabricators to install the work, usually working with small businesses - the engines of our economy.  Like the construction of a building, local subcontractors are hired because it is cost effective, and doing so spurs the local economy.  Because many of these artists also teach, their studio workers are often students learning the construction side of Civic Art.  We are fortunate in Houston to have the local creative business talent and student pool to help realize our Civic Art projects.
What we need to keep in mind for the future is that Civic Art is a necessary ingredient to positioning Houston as an economic leader, as well as a cultural epicenter. It is one of many elements employed by the city of Houston to position itself as a leader in the emerging creative economy.  Civic Art shows us, and the world, that Houston is committed to enterprise, innovation and technology.
The City of Houston's Civic Art Program was established in 1999 through the Percent for Art Ordinance.  Similar programs have been standard in cities of all sizes for decades.  In today's modern American city it is expected, and every major city continues to invest in civic art.  It propels the creative economies that all large cities are investing in, enhances our public space, and creates jobs.  Civic art is a means of preserving our heritage, and celebrating our time and place. That is our legacy.
Tolerance, Jaume Plensaplensa

A small group of private donors, who, working in conjunction with the Mayor's office, Houston Arts Alliance and the Greater Houston Community Foundation, wished to create a place that will highlight and celebrate Houston's openness, diversity, and international character. The result is Jaume Plensa's Tolerance, a gift to the City of Houston.
Tolerance consists of seven stainless steel human figures approximately ten feet high rendered in his signature stainless steel alphabet mesh.  Each figure is formed specifically to rest atop a unique boulder hand-selected by the artist in his native Spain. At night, the figures will glow from within, creating a constellation of beacons.

Plensa designed the installation to reflect Houston's unity and its diversity. At a distance, the figures will appear alike because of their size, shape, and kneeling positions.  Closer examination reveals that each figure is unique, having been created with an open mesh of a distinct set of characters taken from a mix of languages, including Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Hindi and Cyrillic.  Plensa's use of the building blocks of language as a primary element in the project reflects his ongoing artistic concerns to convey both individuality and universality. He says, "Despite all of the many differences that make us unique, such as religion or language, we are all trying to achieve similar things, such as love, health, prosperity, and the success of our children." 

Tolerance will be installed in the "Harmony Walk" area of Buffalo Bayou Park, situated between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive, and between Waugh Drive and Montrose Boulevard, on the south side of Buffalo Bayou.

Mark Dion's Buffalo Bayou Invasive Plant Eradication Unit

dion truckMark Dion's customized truck, "not unlike a rugged emergency response vehicle," is being designed to serve as a workstation, book mobile, laboratory and a beacon for public outreach. It will be the expeditions advance force in the battle against invasive plants along the Bayou and its neighborhood tributaries. 
The unit will help Buffalo Bayou Partnership establish a sense of urgency and importance to this issue, as well as encourage participation in the sustaining of Buffalo Bayou, a major asset for the City of Houston. It is its own success story, a water way on the way to recovery thanks to the diligence and rigor of local citizens. The Dion project provides an ethical, aesthetic and functional response to a heritage of responsible ecological stewardship and management.

Mark Dion's work goes against the grain of dominant culture to challenge how rational scientific methods and subjective influences shape our understanding of the natural world. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the investigation of knowledge about nature, he questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.
Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He received a BFA and an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut. He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum; Museum of Modern Art, New York and Tate Gallery, London. Dion lives in Pennsylvania and New York City, and works worldwide.

View an interview with Mark Dion
There is No Use Trying, Elaine Bradford

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Elaine Bradford's There is No Use Trying, commissioned by Houston Arts Alliance on behalf of Houston Public Librarys, is slated for installation this winter at Vinson Neighborhood Library at 3100 Fuqua, just south of Townwood Park, in southwest Houston.

The work, whose title comes from Alice in Wonderland, is made up of an 8 foot elephant and nine geese, all of whom are wearing Bradford's colorfully recognizable knitted sweaters.

Bradford spent this summer as an artist-in-residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft while she was working on the piece.

Hana Hillerova's Houston, Can You Hear Me? at Bush Airport Terminal A
Artist Registry

Houston Arts Alliance Civic Art & Design team invites interested artists to submit qualifications or its new artist registry. The registry will be used as a resource for reviewing qualifications when selecting artists to be considered for future Civic Art projects.

Submission Infomation
The Lights are On!

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Dennis Oppenheim's Radiant Fountains are nothing short of spectacular. 

Watch a video.

Temporary Art Program

The Houston Arts Alliance recognizes the need to foster vibrant artistic and design excellence through a program of temporary interventions revealing the complexities of the urban habitat, its design and cultural layers (science, place, art community and entrepreneurship).  These actions fall under the guidance of the HAA's strategic plan and the mission of its Civic Design Program. To that end, a Temporary Art Program is under development.

To facilitate an internationally recognized temporary art program is a natural progression towards reanimating Houston as a significant center for design and the creative economy. With the success of and the partnerships cultivated through the James Surls installation (Rice University), Mark Dion (Buffalo Bayou Partnership), Ai Weiwei (Hermann Park Conservancy and Parks and Recreation Department) and Sacred Songs, Sacred Sites projects (HAA's Folklife program), we are establishing a foundation for a dynamic cultural programming throughout the city.

The Temporary Art Program is meant to link Houston's heritage of innovation with its emerging creative sector; move city center aspirations to its divergent communities; and  reveal ideas and actions which assist in establishing Houston as a 21 century cultural leader. 

The objective of the program is to collaborate with planners, architects, community leaders and other stakeholders on design possibilities, advances in science and technology, and exciting new ways to create a participatory public realm.

HAA's Civic Art & Design team is led by Matthew Lennon, who for 30 years has been a practicing visual artist, writer and curator. His paintings have shown throughout the US and Europe. His extensive experience in the re-animation of public spaces and the implementation of sustainable urban and rural cultural strategies make his leadership invaluable and tremendously effective.

Prior to joining HAA, Lennon founded, directed and curated for Seattle-based HorseHead Projects, a vehicle for emerging and mid-career artists and a platform for temporary art installations and public realm practices. While Lennon was at the helm, HorseHead grew to be international in scope, working with artists from Ireland, United Kingdom, United States, Taiwan, Japan, Trinidad, Canada and Italy.
Matthew was hailed the best curator in the Seattle by Doug McLennan, founder and editor of ArtsJournal.com, and named the "Wildcat Curator" by the Seattle Weekly.   He also served as a Seattle Arts Commissioner from 1997- 1999.  He and wife Maxine came to Houston following Matthew's four years of service as Public Art Curator for the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. 

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Matthew Lennon
Director, Civic Art & Design

Other News from HAA
HAA Grantee Named Finalist for 2011 Arthouse Texas Prize

jamal cyrus Individual Artist Grantee, Jamal Cyrus, has been named one of three finalists for the 2011 Arthouse Texas Prize. This award, whose prize is $30,000, recognizes innovation, talent and a marked contribution to a thriving Texas artistic community.

Cyrus, a native Houstonian, holds a BFA from University of Houston and an MFA from University of Pennsylvania. His work has shown in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, at the High Museum, Atlanta and at the Smithsonian National Museum of African America History.

Cyrus is a 2010 International Artist in Residence at Artpace in San Antonio. Past awards include a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Artadia Houston Award in the Visual Arts and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.

All of us at Houston Arts Alliance wish Jamal the best of luck and continued success!

Pictured above: Shhh..., Jamal Cyrus, 2007

onsite/insightSacred Songs, Sacred Sites presents OnSite/InSight, a series of visits to four Houston area faith communities, taking place the weekend of February 26 and 27, 2011.

These visits present a special opportunity to experience and enjoy the visual, song, story, food and architectural traditions of these communities at their place of worship. Each will present an informal program exploringits unique cultural and artistic traditions. The participating institutions represent many aspects of this city's remarkably rich cultural heritage.

Be sure to visit the Sacred Songs, Sacred Sites blog for more information.

Sacred Songs, Sacred Sites is organized and presented by the Folklife & Traditional Arts Program of the Houston Arts Alliance, and is funded in part by Houston Endowment
Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Interfaith Ministries, and His Highness The Aga Khan Council for the USA.

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Dancer at the Houston Jaganatha Festival, Ananta Patel; Detail of painting by Dr. Ezzat Abouleish, Regina Vigil; Food being served during a celebration at Teen How Taoist Temple, Debra Ham; Iconographer Diamantis Cassis working on a commission, Debra Ham; Rangoli being created for Diwali at Meenakshi Temple, Tracey Rubio; Lulav and Etrog used in Sukkot blessing, Tracey Rubio; Prayer beads held by a monk at Vietnam Buddhist Center, Debra Ham. All photos 2010.

artshound logo smallerLaunched in December of 2005, our comprehensive online calendar is the preferred resource for information about Houston's thriving cultural sector. We update artshound.com daily to give Houstonians and tourists the latest information about performances, programs, exhibits and activities.

Whether you want to explore a gallery, enjoy a performance or create art of your own, visit artshound.com for information about the hundreds of opportunities and experiences made possible by the work of Houston Arts Alliance.

The most recent statistics show that Artshound.com receives just under 70,000 monthly site visits, with approximately 40,000 unique visitors, and over 4 million monthly hits.

Click here for information on posting your event to Artshound.com, or to sign up for the weekly Artshound.com email.
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