Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 Art Crawl Saturday November 21st

posted by Free Press Houston @ 10:28 AM

Helen Tellegen
Photo by Cahrlie Jean Sartwelle

Saturday November 21st, over eighty artists located in the Warehouse District will open their doors to the public for 17th Annual Art Crawl. From 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., you can rummage around the dozens of open artist warehouse studios. The artists encourage those attending to bring their children as well.
The event, financed and planned by the artists, exposes the viewer to the art work outside of the sterile swanky galleries. The Art Crawl, a mainstay of the art scene, has earned a national name for Houston’s diacritic art community. To add to the list of things that makes this event unique, it exposes those from all over the Houston area to new art.
Like exploring dozens of old attics, the Art Crawl allow you to poke around artists’ studios cluttered with found objects, paint splatter, and sketches. You walk through each of the artist’s’ studios and see the mess, smell the oil paint and turpentine. The exposed pipes and plywood floors allow you to sense what the warehouses were like a hundred year ago
A few decades ago, a handful of artists moved to a district that the rest of Houston viewed as an elephant’s grave yard. The old shipping warehouses northeast of downtown were used as shanties for drifters from the local jail. Artists like John Runnels and Charlie Jean Sartwelle found the area had the ingredients for artists’ paradise, ample space and cheap rent. In 1984 they founded the Mother Dog Studio, which became the ring leader of the Art Crawl. Mother Dog found the atmosphere of the Warehouse District an asset, as it tied them to the roots of working-class Houston.
Mother Dog wanted to organize a different kind of art festival. To get complete community involvement they enlisted the support of the nonprofit organizations Diverse Works and Photofest. Part of their goal was to attract the part of the community that typically has little interest in local art. This included those living in the suburbs and in areas of Houston with little art exposure.
Thirty-six year old Artist Whitney Riley is entering her 5th year in the Art Crawl. While studying physics in college, she took a painting class. The class was an epiphany – she abandoned physics and became a professional artist. She and seven artists have founded Box 13, a warehouse studio that focuses on experimental work. Its welcoming environment and family atmosphere have caused it to grow to 16 artists. Her most recent work is a series of paintings depicting Sports Illustrated swimsuit models doing housework. Her concept is to juxtapose the two contrasting stereotypes for women.
In contrast, Ron Gordon studied art in college, but didn’t become a professional artist until age 48, when he retired from teaching. The Warehouse District was perfect place for him to set up studio and reenter the art world. Within ten years Gordon is a successful muralist, but he notes that he also likes to explore other genres of art. As he has advanced in his career he’s been able to buy time to work on abstract painting. To Gordon, the Art Crawl is liberating because galleries expect you to have one genre of work. He finds the atmosphere of the Warehouse District perfect for his eclectic work and thrives on the artistic inspiration he finds there.
The artists in the district feel their settling of the area has been a gift to the city. Unfortunately, the success of the district is attracting other developers. The paradox that artists face is that their move to cheap places eventually makes those places so attractive and expensive that the artists can no longer afford them. Runnels feel the days of the artists in the Warehouse District may be numbered. However he quotes Robert Hughes to say that “artists are as tough as weeds and can grow in the cracks of concrete.”

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At November 21, 2009 at 9:04 PM , Anonymous Geoff said...

Good article.

I agree that the cancer that is luxury townhomes and/or lofts will soon replace the Warehouse District. The city could probably do something to protect the area in the interest of the value the art created there adds to the city. Of course we all know city council cares way more about the extra tax revenue luxury townhomes would bring in versus the warehouses.

Maybe they'll tear down the buildings and let Tillman Furtida replace them with some fabulous new attraction. Maybe they will even build a rollercoaster right behind somebody's house like they did in Kema. Oh boy.


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