The Houston Downtown Management District’s new five-year infrastructure plan is going to deck out the downtown area in ways never imagined. While the improved lighting, walkways and other physical focus points will increase the areas functionality, the “Art Blocks” initiative is the most eye-catching. To that end, a lineup of artists both local and from farther afield has been commissioned to create four temporary installations, which will be strategically placed throughout the three-block Main Street stretch by the end of this month.
For the past year Downtown Management District reviewed their previous plan and considered, “what (they) wanted to do moving forward,” said Angie Bertinot, director of marketing and communications/retail development. Other than the basic functions, the board was set on what could be, “be better or different,” about Downtown, which zeroed them in on Main Street Square.
Internationally acclaimed artist Jessica Stockholder will color Main and McKinney with paint and vibrant vinyl, while the Brooklyn collective YesYesNo will install an interactive installation on 1111 Main St. which reflects passersby with augmented masks. Also look for works from five Texas-based artists, four of which will be featured on the Main Street Marquee throughout the year.
“We kept thinking, ‘we want to go big.’” Bertinot said, “When you’re going to have millions of eyeballs on your city, again, let’s go big.”
The pieces will be up and running when Houston hosts the both the NCAA Final Four next month and the Super Bowl next winter, giving Houstonians as well as millions of sports aficionados the opportunity to see the art and culture of Houston reflected in such an iconic space.
“Temporary art…allows you to change things up and (also) gives a sense of urgency,” Bertinot said. “At the end of the year it comes away and something new comes…or maybe it goes somewhere else in downtown.”
Patrick Renner, artist for one of the four installations, is an old hand at temporary art in Houston. “Funnel Tunnel,” a previous piece of colorful, interlaid wood strips winding down Montrose’s grass intersection, was up for 18 months before being relocated to New Orleans. This time around Renner is developing his new “Trumpet Canopy” from reclaimed wood for the McKinney-Lamar intersection.
“The shape of the sculpture has a nice counterpoint to the urban, cold business-like space.” Renner said. “The form that we’re bringing in is organic, colorful and swoopy.”
Downtown Management District did a select call for this space, reaching out to a small group of local artists, asking for submissions for a canopy that would serve as a functional piece; it's all of a piece with Houston’s push to coalesce art, life, culture, local talent—and now sports.
“(The call for art) is an example of something that is progressive and keeping with the times,” Renner said. “I don’t think people have fully recognized the potential of things happening here.”