If you aren’t familiar with the Arts District neighborhood yet, west of downtown near Glenwood Cemetery, it is time to introduce yourself. The neighborhoods within the Arts District are known for some of the most unique sights in town. The district is literally paved with the history of the city. From handmade bricks laid by emancipated slaves that pave some streets, to the unique streetlights and landscaping that derive from the original residents, you don’t know Houston until you get to know the Arts District.
Arts District Houston embodies Houston’s up and coming creative economy. This colorful, urban, artist-centered community is situated in the city center along the Washington Avenue Corridor and touts the highest concentration of working artists in the state.
This month seven murals created by local artists celebrating the history the Arts District and financed by grants through Fresh Arts and the Texas Commission on the Arts debuted and Christmas is a perfect time to visit them. Recently we were invited by Fresh Arts to hop a bus and not only visit the mural locations, but meet the artists and learn of their inspiration for their public pieces. Not only was the tour interesting as we learned more about the history of our city, we appreciated the beautiful artwork and the enormous effort it takes to turn the facade of a building, brick, corrugated metal and wood slats into a canvas!
Plan on putting on some comfortable walking shoes or hop on your bike and take the tour over the Christmas break! But first, allow us to give you a preview.
First stop: “Bringing Home with Us” by Royal Sumikat at Henderson and Kane. Royal says her inspiration for the piece, which must be seen in person to be appreciated, are the original female settlers of Houston. German and Mexican immigrants and freed slaves shouldered the responsibility to build Houston from the ground up, carrying their cultures and traditions with them.
Next we visited the Multicultural Education Through the Arts (MECA Houston) community center and listened to writers like Willow Curry, whose piece is featured in the newspaper found in each of the mural location’s custom painted newsstands. Ashley writes about the history of racial tension in Houston and how our present is always influenced by our past.
Jessica Rice created “As the Little Houses Go” as an homage to the lost original structures that dotted the neighborhoods west of downtown. The piece also features a tribute to the landscaping originally commonly seen in front of the houses in the area.
Cala Lillies and trumpet vines were a colorful and inexpensive way to brighten the front yards of the little houses. Today, the plants are going the way of the little houses as developers strip the yards of greenery in favor of concrete.
“Stronger Together” at Stanton’s City Bites is a mural Vivienne Dang created that celebrates the immigrant family still running the restaurant inside and all immigrant families that come to Houston, start businesses and thrive while maintaining their culture.
“Gone Like a Dream” by Jade Young at Decatur Bar and Pop-Up Factory is a look back at the industry of the Bayou City. Walking along the mural and looking at the different topics it covers like native birds, buffalo that used to roam the banks of the bayou and even the cows that used to roam Glenwood Cemetery.
“Dreams and Train Smoke” by local artist Jessica Guerra is an homage to her love of native plants, botanical vintage textiles and design into visual storytelling. In her signature block style, painstakingly reproduced on corrugated metal, the artist depicts what was originally sold at Houston’s native markets and transported by train to others.
Fresh Arts is the managing partner of Arts District Houston and amplifies the district’s ability to serve artists and the greater community through artist-centered initiatives that help build capacity, audiences and shared resources for the artists and creative businesses that compose the district. Fresh Arts and Arts District Houston are dedicated to shaping and building Houston’s creative economy in a responsible way that ensures the district retains top artistic talent and energy while continually enhancing the livability of the surrounding neighborhood.
WHAT IS ARTS DISTRICT HOUSTON?
Arts District Houston embodies Houston’s up and coming creative economy. This colorful, urban, artist-centered community is situated in the city center along the Washington Avenue Corridor and touts the highest concentration of working artists in the state. Visit this lively historically designated area bound by two of the city’s bayous and feel the creativity flow throughout the creative businesses, restaurants, artists studios, and reimagined industrial spaces, notably the iconic repurposed rice silos and old Union Pacific rail line that run through it.