Arts Community

Taking Charge in the Form of Art

Art League Houston hosts its second annual Charge 2016.

By Jenn Nguyen January 5, 2016

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Image: Shutterstock

Local nonprofit Art League Houston is set to spark a passionate, multi-platform conversation through the city’s creative sphere during the Charge 2016 festival from January 8­–10.

Even though Houston is not short of talented artists, the expressive minds behind visual media sometimes don’t feel like they have total control over their art. What began as an opportunity for artists to express their concerns and share their stories has now flourished into a large conference that actively engages Houstonians with the city’s emerging arts scene, with numerous panels, discussions and games prepared for further community engagement.

If our work is being used, is our voice being heard?” asks Carrie Schneider, co-organizer of Charge 2016. With our cultural plan and funding structures, there’s a question of whether we have a seat at the table—so we built our own table.”

Schneider, along with fellow co-organizer Jennie Ash, was inspired create the inaugural Charge festival in 2014 after attending Valuing Labor in the Arts, a set of eight workshops focusing on labor and economics in arts, held at UC Berkeley.

“At that time, Houston was being touted as an arts and culture city, but artists weren’t in the conversation,” Schneider explains.

Financial disparity is still relevant for artists. Pay equity is one of the main advocated principles at Charge, so artists involved are given equal compensation for their participation. To Schneider, creating art with no economic yield can be limiting and does not give artists full autonomy over their product.

People sometimes gets confused and think that equitable compensation [means] the artist is acting entitled,” Schneider says.

Since Houston’s arts community reflects the city’s vibrant diversity, it was important to Schneider and Ash that their initiative encouraged artists of all backgrounds and beliefs to take a stand. Art League linked up with several local cultural institutions, like Project Row Houses in the Third Ward and Fe y Justicia Worker Center in Montrose, to expand Charge into a more inclusive, multicultural dialogue platform.

Charge serves as a podium for artists’ voices, but it also equally emphasizes the importance of getting the rest of the community engaged with the arts. Along with the informative panels, there are also many interactive activities to simultaneously educate and entertain Charge attendees. This year, there will be a human spectrogram, as well as a session of “laugh yoga” and an arts-themed edition of Deal or No Deal.

There are currently no set plans to bring Charge to other locations, but Schneider hopes that it continues to ignite growth within Houston’s arts culture.

“There’s a great legacy of [Houston] artists that have done groundbreaking work,” Schneider says. “It’s a place that demands you to color outside the lines.”

Jan 8–10. $10 donation. Set in multiple locations.

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