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Monday, October 2, 2023


Art community gathers at UH

As part of the weeklong events celebrating the investiture of Chancellor and President Renu Khator, UH held an arts townhall Wednesday night that showcased the talents of University faculty and members of the Houston art community. A panel comprised of local arts personnel and artists were on hand to discuss and share ideas for ways the community and the university could help foster the arts in the city.

The event, held in the Waldorf Astoria Ballroom at the University Hilton, was organized and moderated by Elizabeth Brown-Guillory, professor of English and founder and director of the Houston Suitcase Theatre at UH.

The evening began with a piano piece by Howard Pollack, a professor of music at the Moores School of Music. His rendition of George Gershwin’s "Third Prelude" engaged the audience with a variety of tempos.

Next up was Rebecca Greene Udden, artistic director of the Main Street Theatre. Udden performed a monologue from the production Third by playwright Wendy Wasserstein.

Poet, teacher and police officer Sarah Cortez recited two of her poems from her collection How to Undress a Cop. Cortez’s first poem focused on her experience as a field training officer while her second poem was what she called "typical cop humor" about a lieutenant.

UH professor of English and novelist Dr. Chitra Divakaruni read a passage from her collection Arranged Marriage. Divakaruni’s main theme was the lives of Indian-American immigrants and how immigration changes them and their relationships within the family.

Katherine Center, a UH alumna whose first novel The Bright Side of Disaster has been featured in People Magazine and Vanity Fair, read part of her essay that is to be featured in a coming anthology about the bond between mothers and daughters, Because I Lover Her.

Henry Edwards Jr., actor for the Ensemble Theatre, recited a monologue from August Wilson’s Radio Golf.

UH creative writing alumnus Tony Diaz read a passage from his book Protestors Handbook, in which the character, from the south side of Chicago, receives his bachelor’s degree and finds that the American dream is merely an American daydream.

Ending the showcase portion was Jason Oby, tenor for the Houston Ebony Opera Guild, who performed two numbers with pianist Jane Perkyns.

The second half of the evening was dedicated to a forum to discuss ways to better foster the arts throughout Houston and the university. The common idea shared by all panelists was the need for collaboration.

Many organizations in the arts community could not exist without partnerships with other organizations. Each group shares their resources in order to make the arts stronger and more prominent in the city.

Panelists agreed that UH can help foster the arts by continuing to educate students about the arts.

Michelle Barnes, co-founder and executive director of Community Artists’ Collective, said there should be more marketing of students’ works as well as a more formal introduction to the art community for the students.

Recruiting and keeping local artists in Houston is another way panel members said the Houston art community can grow and help raise awareness of Houston’s prominent art community.

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