Houston is not known for preserving its past. Recent controversies over the Astrodome and the bricks in Freedman’s Town suggest as much. Perhaps the city’s origins and ties to the railroads and port gave Houstonians their sense of forward momentum and robbed them of nostalgia. Attempting to reverse this trend, the Houston Arts Alliance is offering an opportunity for Houstonians to look backward and forward as the city marks both the centennial of the Houston Ship Channel and the completion of the new light rail line in the East End, Houston’s historic transportation hub.
Transported + Renewed is the HAA’s three-month celebration of the East End and “Houston’s love affair with movement, transformation, and reinvention,” as HAA CEO Jonathon Glus puts it. With enough events to fill your fall social calendar between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, Transported + Renewed offers concerts, performances, visual arts installations, parades, and something called a bicycle opera—all of it free.
“We started working on this a few years ago, and we were very interested in the East End, because it’s where our city began,” Glus told me. “It has a tremendous amount of history, and layers and layers of cultural communities. That part of the city, with its proximity to the port, has functioned as our Ellis Island. But it also very under-recognized by most Houstonians.”
The whole affair kicks off at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2 in front of City Hall, where Mayor Annise Parker will help the HAA unveil Sharon Engelstein’s sculpture Whatever Floats, a 20-foot inflatable tugboat. (Houstonians may recognize Engelstein from her pink foam sculpture in Hermann Park.) The tugboat sculpture will be displayed at various locations around the city, including City Hall, Market Square Park, and Allen’s Landing.
Among the other events scheduled for September is an official kickoff party on Sept. 4 at Moon Tower Inn; a multimedia exhibition on the history of the Houston Ship Channel at the Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson building; and a Latino Music Series, hosted by Grammy-winning Panamanian musician Osvaldo Ayala, on Sept. 7 at Tony Marron Park. On Sept. 13, head to Allen’s Landing for a “parade on water” featuring kayaks, paddle boats, Dragon boats, and a fleet of police and fire rescue vessels.
On Sept. 19, the Houston Grand Opera will perform Past the Checkpoints, an operetta based on the true story of an undocumented immigrant growing up in Texas. The three-part Buffalo Bayou Silos art series begins on Sept. 20 with Houstonality & FutureMind, where the work of Pablo Gimenez Zapiola will be projected onto silos along the bayou (see above), accompanied by performances by FrenetiCore Dance and Cirque La Vie. Cyclists can experience the “bicycle opera” starting on Sept. 27 by riding special “sonic bicycles” outfitted with speakers that transmit snippets of music based on the riders’ GPS coordinates (see above).
All the various events in the three-month celebration are in the service of bringing Houstonians to the East End and giving them a greater appreciation for their history, according to the HAA’s Glus. “We want as many Houstonians as possible to see all the parades, art and concerts, and the riches of the East End,” he told me. “The economic development, planning, architecture, arts and design communities are all talking about how we can respect history, respect cultural communities but make our cities more beautiful, more walkable, and function better in a physical way.”
[See the full schedule of events here.]