From the surge in new restaurants to eclectic bars and residential developments, Houston is breathing new life into the Downtown area.
As a follow-up to the group exhibition Collect it For the Culture, local talent agency Heist tapped creative marketing house, Prauper to take over a two-story, 23,000 sq ft building in Downtown Houston. The space was formerly home to Forever 21, but in 2019 the popular fast-fashion retailer filed for bankruptcy, causing widespread closings of stores across the nation. The Main St. location was a retail attraction for young shoppers in the city but has since been repurposed as a destination for cultural events.
Prauper’s founder and creative director, Emmanuel Alia conceived the concept for From Houston, With Love nearly three years ago and was finally able to execute the idea within three months of being invited to program the space. Alia gathered his community of artist friends and rallied his team to produce the two-month presentation that has garnered lots of attention this summer. The project is the culmination of separate relationships converging into one. “The collaborative component of the partnering organizations and the artists involved was a big deal for everyone. Prauper came up with the concept and branding, but it was truly a team effort,” says Alia. The showcase features over 20 visual artists who were either born, raised or currently based in Houston, Texas.
The large, two-story space lends itself well to the selection of artists, whose work spans from painting, photography, collage, video and sculpture. Photographer Troy Montes presented images from his Thairapy series, a project that explores the barbershop as a crucial site for community and nurturing. Muralist Shelbi Nicole brought her whimsical designs to life on a three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot, while multidisciplinary artist Cary Fagan bridged a connection between chairs and people in his ongoing experimental sculpture, Chairs Are People. One of the music industry’s most coveted concert photographers, Greg Noire featured a number of star-studded performance captures and an interactive installation of a matte black drum set that visitors autographed with metallic sharpies.
The exhibition’s show stopper was a twenty-five-foot mural entitled A Conversation between Darío and Chandrika, 2021 by emerging artists Chandrika Luciene Metivier and Darío de Leon. Chandrika, the performance and installation artist behind 2020’s guerilla-style Vote or Die billboard on I-45, invited Darío to conceptualize the mural. Working primarily in collage, he gathered a myriad of images sourced to represent the cultural multiplicity of the city. “I wanted to create something that makes people feel seen and represented,” he tells Houstonia. The two have known each other for several years and the mural epitomizes the collaborative power within Houston’s artistic communities.
The 60-day presentation was accompanied by a series of talks and screenings that celebrated Houston’s creative culture. With plans to return next year, From Houston, With Love presented the unique opportunity for visitors to reflect on the rich, artistic diversity in the Bayou City.