DeSmogBlog: Examining the Influence of Fossil Fuel Sponsors on Natural History Museums’ Energy Exhibitions

Full article by Julie Dermansky

The art exhibition, “Mining the HMNS: An Investigation by The Natural History Museum,” in Houston, Texas, raises the question: “Is the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences a museum, or a PR front for the fossil fuel industry?”

The exhibition is a collaboration between The Natural History Museum, a mobile museum created by Not An Alternative, a Brooklyn based collective engaged in art and activism, and t.e.j.a.s. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services), a community-based activist organization in East Houston.

It is part of the group show, “Shattering the Concrete: Artists, Activists and Instigators,” at Project Row Houses, an arts organization that explores “art’s role in challenging the current political paradigm and fomenting political change,” on display through June 19.

The Natural History Museum’s exhibition parodies elements featured in the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences (HMNS), the Wiess Energy Hall. In the show is a recreation of a wall crediting donors inside the HMNS.. While a wall in theHMNS displays the donors’ names scaled according to the size of donations (the larger donors are spelled out with larger letters), the Natural History Museum’s wall lists the names of HMNS’s donors with letters sized to the donors’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Arts+Culture TX: Project Row Houses: Shattering the Concrete: Artists, Activists and Instigators

Full article by Laura A. L. Wellen

In each of the seven installations, a certain type of work is happening – what de Anda describes as “creative resistance.” We see the social problem, and we see organizers using visual data to connect with a community and to advocate for change. Where this round really shines, though, is in the contrast between two installations: The Natural History Museum, presented in a collaboration between New York-based Not an Alternative and T.E.J.A.S., and the installation KARANKAWA CARANCAHUA CARANCAGUA KARANKAWAY by Nura Montiel and John Pluecker. Both ask for a deeper engagement and careful looking at a specific place–Houston–over time. And both pose significant questions about museum and community, politics and organizing, spaces between things and people, and how change happens. Most importantly, they consider how Houston’s own history is based on making certain peoples, histories, and things invisible.

Free Press Houston: The Revolution Will Not Be Painterly

Full Article by Harbeer Sandhu

But if social practices is the subject, then there’s no better example anywhere than Project Row Houses. The current round of installations, Shattering the Concrete: Artists, Activists and Instigators, at Project Row Houses “explor[es] the role that art can play in challenging our current political paradigm and fomenting political change.”

[museum 006] My favorite is “Mining the HMNS” — a collaboration between New York based climate activists Not An Alternative and local environmental justice organization T.E.J.A.S.  (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, with whom Free Press Houston collaborated on a series of articles last year). “Mining the HMNS,” is a logical offshoot of Not An Alternative’s ongoing project The Natural History Museum, which questions and unpacks the assumptions-presented-as-fact by Houston’s Museum of Natural Science — specifically the way the largely-funded-by-oil-and-gas-corporations HMNS might be “a [public relations]front for the fossil fuel industry.”

Huffington Post: How Artists Are Using Row Houses To Empower Citizens In Houston

Full Article by Priscilla Frank

In the 1970s, conceptual artist Joseph Beuys gave a series of lectures about his theory on social sculpture; mainly, that life is art, people are artists, and we all have the power to mold and shape aspects of our lives creatively.

“My objects are to be seen as stimulants for the transformation of the idea of sculpture, or of art in general,” Beuys explained in 1979. “They should provoke thoughts about what sculpture can be and how the concept of sculpting can be extended to the invisible materials used by everyone.”

The idea may sound, well, conceptual at first — as in lofty, quixotic and difficult to apply to the logistical problems of everyday life. But with the Houston-based Project Row Houses, artist Rick Lowe proved how wrong that interpretation is. 

The Creators Project: 22 Houses Preserve Black History and Culture in Houston

Full Article by Antwaun Sargent

In the early 90s, a group of high school students visited Rick Lowe’s artist studio in Houston’s Third Ward neighborhood. A student asked how Lowe could use his art to help foster change in the community. Lowe didn’t have an answer, but in 1993, gathered a group of local artists to see how they could use art to revitalize the Third Ward. Inspired by artist Joseph Beuys’ idea of a “social sculpture,” Lowe and the group of artists bought 22 dilapidated row houses that line a street in downtown Houston. The art-based project became known as the nonprofit, Project Row Houses.

23 years later, Project Row Houses has grown into an artist community comprised of houses that bring museum-quality work to the historically black community. The project also offers multiple artist residency programs, temporary shelter for single mothers, and after school and public art programs. In 2003, in partnership with Rice University, Project Row Houses launched Row House CDC, to build 57 permanent affordable housing units for families living in the northern section of the Third Ward community.