Visual & Performance Art

Project Row Houses Wants to See Things Differently

Third Ward arts community Project Row weaves an artistic tapestry of social change in its latest Round 44 group exhibition.

By Sarah Douglass March 25, 2016

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Storied Third Ward arts organization Project Row Houses’ upcoming exhibition, Shattering the Concrete: Artists, Activists and Instigators, uses creative practice to spark conversations, build relationships and begin shifting power in the art world from the ground up.

“The exhibition is really about the intersection between art and activism,” guest curator Raquel de Anda said of the biannual, site-specific exhibit.

Seven houses in the Third Ward serve as canvases for socially engaged art. Each house tackles a social issue that directly resonates with hyper local communities in Houston. Themes range from police brutality, environmental justice to indigenous language preservation.

Enlisting artists from New York, Arizona and Mexico City, Anda sees this exhibition as an “opportunity [for people] to learn from each other, to hear about practices that are happening in different cities and see it as a sort of experimental lab test.”

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The exhibition’s fusion of legal experts, historians and environmental justice groups with artists highlights how integrated artists are in today’s social justice movements.

“The most important thing that I hope people take away from this is that artists aren’t just reflecting back about the times that we were in, they’re actually actively participating in it and shaping it,” Anda said.

One house, focusing on legal expungement clinics, enlisted legal experts to release people of the burden of their criminal records. People were invited to bring their old records and work with lawyers to eliminate non convicted cases off their record.

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“You literally see a person’s record switch from eight pages to two. You see their records shortened, then they shred those papers and make new paper with flowers and other found natural objects,” Anda explained.

At the end of the project, a new photograph is taken, the subjects are asked what was it people didn’t know about them at the time their mugshot was taken, and then invited to rewrite their story. A tapestry is installed displaying the new papers and stories.

“What was amazing was not only did these artists want to participate, but they wanted to participate in a way that really affected the communities that lived in Houston,” Anda said.

March 26–June 19. Free. Project Row Houses, 2521 Holman St. 713-526-7662.

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