Center for Art and Social Engagement and Project Row Houses have created a fellowship program that invites artists and cultural practitioners to the Third Ward to work alongside urban planners, educators and policy makers. The fellows will engage in creative collaborations that involve the Houston's historic Third Ward community and address issues important to them.
The two fellows have a year-long mentorship with project administrators Sixto Wagan, director of the UH Center for Art and Social Engagement at the University of Houston's Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, and Ryan N. Dennis, PRH's Curator and Programs Director. Local artists, faculty members, community members and selected leaders will offer their support during this process. The Fellows will present to the public their research–to-date at the end of their fellowship.
The pilot of this program was funded by a generous gift from Texas philanthropist Suzanne Deal Booth, which also supports future public programs to promote community engagement.
Libby Bland is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she earned master’s degrees in architecture and city and regional planning. Her undergraduate degree is from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied narratives of place, children’s literature, and costuming. She was born and raised in Southeastern Virginia in the shadow of The Great Dismal Swamp. Her background is in oral history, arts-based community design, and the history of self-planned Black communities throughout the rural South. Previously she worked with The Community Futures Lab in Philadelphia, an oral history and arts project around gentrification in a neighborhood after public housing towers had been demolished. She also worked for the Village of Arts and Humanities, focusing on economic development and housing stability for long-time residents in North Philadelphia. She currently works full time at Texas Housers as a neighborhood and housing equity planner and analyst.
The through line of Libby’s work is trying to understand the narratives that Black people tell (and omit) about our experiences, and figuring out clear and compelling ways to connect us across the stories and lessons that have been lost to time and trauma.
Sarah Rafael Garcia
Sarah Rafael García is a writer, traveler, and arts educator. She was born in Brownsville, Texas and raised in Santa Ana, California—she considers herself “a first-generation everything,” including being an artist. Since publishing Las Niñas (Floricanto Press 2008), she founded Barrio Writers, LibroMobile and Crear Studio. In 2015, she completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Fiction and cognate in Media Studies. She is an editor for the Barrio Writers, pariahs: writing from outside the margins and Latinx Archive anthologies. In 2016, Sarah Rafael was awarded to develop the multi-media project titled SanTana’s Fairy Tales (Raspa Magazine 2017), supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, through an Artist-in-Residence initiative at CSUF Grand Central Art Center. In 2018, she held an artist residency at The Guesthouse, Cork, Ireland and was honored as an Emerging Artist at the 19th Annual Orange County Arts Awards. In March 2019, she will exhibit her first installation as a conceptual artist: “A Book’s Journey,” a collaborative recycled book project.
As a writer and conceptual artist, Sarah Rafael offers historical counter-narratives for her gender and culture, while integrating contemporary social justice themes and creative narrative structures of people of color without the constraints imposed by society or traditional storytelling. For the KGMCA-PRH Fellowship, she is interested in expanding her ethnographic work by researching and incorporating Houston's Third Ward history along with its social justice and gentrification issues and further develop a multi-media, literary-arts platform.
Regina Agu is an artist and writer based in Houston, TX. Her recent projects focus on the complex relationships between the landscape and communities of color. Agu produces photographs, texts, drawings, installations, performances, and collaborative public projects. Her work has been included in exhibitions, public readings, and performances nationally, including recent showings at The Drawing Center, New York; DiverseWorks, Houston; The American University Museum Katzen Arts Center in DC; Project Row Houses; and The Station Museum, Houston. She is a 2017-2018 Lawndale Artist Studio Program resident and a 2017 Artadia Houston awardee, and was a recent participant in Open Sessions at The Drawing Center.
From 2014-2017, Agu was the co-director of Alabama Song, a collaboratively-run art space in Third Ward, Houston, and received a SEED Grant for Alabama Song from The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. She was the co-organizer of Friends of Angela Davis Park, which received an Idea Fund grant, and is a co-founder of the Houston-based independent small press, paratext. Additionally, Agu is the founder of the WOC reading group, a series of private gatherings organized in Houston in 2014-2015 to examine critical texts and discuss contemporary issues from a womanist perspective; its members included women of color artists, writers, filmmakers, and anthropologists.
Originally from Ethiopia, Eyakem Gulilat’s work is rooted in a quest for belonging. Gulilat focuses on the complexities of cross-cultural encounter, perceptions of time, memory, and place. His photography questions the differences between subject and photographer; the borders that distinguish us from one another; and the ways our perceptions shift when we view each other through the camera’s lens. In addition, he uses photography to study place-making practices of marginalized communities in America.
Gulilat obtained a BA from Abilene Christian University and MFA from the University of Oklahoma, where he is currently finishing a PhD program in city planning. He was selected as an artist in residence at Light Work in Syracuse, New York; the Center for Photography in Woodstock, New York; Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Oregon; and at Hardesty Art Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Gulilat has won several awards including the 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Grant in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa; the Oklahoma Visual Arts Fellowship; and the National Photography Fellowship Competition at Midwest Center for Photography. Gulilat was selected as a participant in State of the Art:Discovering American Art Now curated by Crystal Bridges. His photography work has been exhibited throughout the U.S and has been acquired for public and private collections. Read more about him and his work: http://www.eyakem.com/
Carrie Schneider is a Houston-based artist interested in people’s ability to reimagine their space. She uses art to invent ceremony and reconfigure memory. For the CotA-PRH Fellowship, Schneider will examine the idea of Survival Creativity – amending the adage that "the greatest creativity comes from the most dire circumstances" to consider what support that allows silence to break. She is looking to the broad Houston community for creative processes in which personal coping strategies are successfully translated into public catharsis and stories of trauma transformed into speech acts.
Culminating presentation by Carrie Schneider
"mirror boxes and impossible movement"
Carrie Schneider gives a slide talking tour of the course of her 2017 Fellowship, researching the scaling up and down of gestures of “Survival Creativity,” or making a way out of no way, rearticulating ossified joints, and finding space when stuck: from personal coping strategies to citywide Hurricane Relief, and from artists mining their personal practice to matchmaking artists and activists on a range of issues effecting Houston - all testing the movement of an individual body’s relationship the rhythms of a social public, and all zooming in to understand more about the imagination’s role in the sliver of possibility between making up and making real.
Carol Zou is a Texas-based artist who will use the fellowship period to investigate the displacement of artists from metropolitan art centers like New York and Los Angeles to up-and-coming art cities like Houston, and how this regional displacement has the potential to affect local gentrification trends. She will engage with artist-led initiatives such as Project Row Houses and the Emancipation Economic Development Council to research strategies of resisting displacement.
Culminating presentation by Carol Zou
"exercises for the invisible enemy / 太极拳反对无形敌人 a performative tai chi lecture on spatial capitalism"
equal parts auto-orientalism, cultural recuperation, and critique of capitalism, exercises for the invisible enemy utilizes the tai chi practice of occupying public space to deconstruct capitalism’s spatial (il)logic. in other words, learn how to practice tai chi and resist gentrification at the same time.