Arts in the Bayou City

ICYMI: New Plan Puts East End's Rich Arts & Culture Scene Front and Center

Plus, we've two poet laureates and a Pepsi-featured artist.

By Emma Schkloven June 2, 2021

Image: Trish Badger

We’ve been talking nonstop about 2021–2022 season announcements (you know … because fall arts are actually a thing this year), but a lot’s happened on the arts front outside of schedules in recent weeks. 

Poet City

Houston, we have a new poet laureate: Emanuelee Outspoken Bean. The news, which, fittingly, brought National Poetry Month to a close, was a welcome treat for Houston literary fans as Bean is a well-known figure in the spoken word community, having been the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs Artist in Resident in 2017.

A master wordsmith, Bean has performed on stages across the city, including the Houston Ballet, and his one-man show, Converse, went all the way to Off-Broadway. Oh, did we mention he’s also a nationally ranked slam poet? Bean will serve as the city’s fifth poet laureate through April 2023, and we can’t wait to see what he does.

That’s not all the poetry news fit to print. The Lone Star State also named Galveston-born, Houston-based poet Lupe Mendez as its 2022 poet laureate. The founder of the Tintero Projects, which provides a platform for Latinx writers in the Gulf Coast region, Mendez is also the author of the collection Why I Am Like Tequila.   

And speaking of Texas arts news, Houston sculptor Jesse Lott has also been named the Lone Star State’s 2022 Three-Dimensional Artist. A Fifth Ward native, Lott’s best known for upcycling collected and recycled objects—an aesthetic he calls “urban frontier art”—and has an exhibition currently on display at the Station Museum.

East End: Your Next Cultural Destination

Part of what makes Houston so special is the unique cultural landscape that fills each of its districts. The East End, one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods and a hub of Hispanic life in the city, is putting its arts front and center as part of a new 10-year plan to invest in and expand its cultural platform on a citywide level and beyond.

“We want it to become a destination that Houston’s known for, and not just within the city,” Dan Joyce, the district’s director of public affairs, tells Houstonia. “I want folks traveling from Austin and Dallas—all over the place—to know about the arts in the East End, Houston, cultural district. It needs to be on the map.”

Called the Cultural Arts Strategic Plan (CASP), the initiative, created by Houston-based art advisory firm Weingarten Art Group and released last month, maps out a framework for future tourism projects and economic development, as well as artistic programs that will promote community pride and tradition and give Hispanic artists—a traditionally underfunded demographic when it comes to artistic grants—more opportunities.

Highlights of the plan include revitalizing the Talento Bilingue de Houston (TBH) and Guadalupe Plaza Park as centers for performances and programs; creating a mile-long stretch of street art and murals on warehouse buildings along Navigation Boulevard, called “Calle de Colores”; and hiring a cultural arts administrator.  

The culmination of a year and a half of planning and months of research, the new directive is a continuation of the 2014 East End Cultural Designation Plan, which was established after the district was named cultural district by the Texas Commission of the Arts that year.

“While the East End may be underfunded and underrepresented,” adds Joyce, “it's got strong, long-lasting senses of personal pride and culture and tradition within the community,”

Fat Tony Wants You to Drink a Pepsi

No one reps Houston quite like musical genre mixer and Third Ward native Fat Tony—and he did it with some cowboy swag in Pepsi’s Taste of Your Texas campaign.

During the special video segment, the musician, who’s currently living in Arizona, talked about developing his passion for both hip-hop and country music and performed a mariachi remix of his song “Gambling Man,” which appeared on his most recent album, Exotica, in his childhood neighborhood.

You can watch the entire music video here, and if it doesn’t say H-Town, we don’t know what does.

Sydney Davis contributed to this story.

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