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Graphic design project aims to ‘cross horizons’ between Second, Fifth Wards

Fiona Sinha/The Cougar

Buffalo Bayou is one of Houston’s many historic sites, and it serves as a border between the Second and Fifth Wards. The nonprofit Buffalo Bayou Partnership focuses on one 10-mile section — out of the 52-mile long waterway — that flows from Shepherd Drive to the Port of Houston Turning Basin.

UH graphic design students created temporary art installations that reflect the cultural and industrial nature of those neighborhoods for the Partnership’s Saturday event called “Encounter.”

Its purpose was to “bring these neighborhoods to the bayou,” and gather the community’s thoughts on how to bring the neighborhoods together, said Buffalo Bayou Partnership President Anne Olson. “Now they’re disconnected, so one goal is to preserve the legacy of those two neighborhoods.”

Graphic design associate professor Fiona McGettigan introduced the opportunity for UH design seniors to build installations along the bayou. “(McGettigan) was looking for a project for her students and also does graphic design work for Buffalo Bayou Partnership,” Olson said.

Planning for the “Encounter” project started in December 2017. The students had to present their projects at an exhibition at Sunset Coffee Building in one of the would-be locations: Allen’s Landing. After the presentation, they started construction on their installations.

The installations are strung along the bayou, starting at Allen’s Landing on Commerce Street in Downtown. There are five more points thereafter east of Downtown, stretching down to Yolanda Black Navarro Buffalo Bend Nature Park.

Many of the installations have stencils along the wharfs of the bayou in addition to interactive pieces. One of the stencils was at the North York Boat Launch. As visitors enjoyed zydeco music, free Saint Arnold’s beer and food truck fare, they could see the words “Crossing horizons” spelled on the wharf. The new mural is the work of graphic design senior Isabella Serimontrikul.

“It’s kind of a poetic narrative about crossing horizons that talks about connecting Fifth and Second Ward in this community recreational space that they’re trying to make,” Serimontrikul said.

Her interactive was an entire map of Buffalo Bayou and the other five points. “On that map we marked Houston neighborhoods, the boat launches along the bayou and the nine access points to the bayou in that area,” said Serimontrikul.

The first location at Allen’s Landing has more historic roots than the others. The landing is considered the first port of Houston and where the city started. The location features a crash course in all the other points in the route, represented through boxes designed by graphic design seniors Nadia Tran, Bruce Chao, Jon Inthavong, Julio Aguirre, UH design graduate Jose Chavero Rivera.

“You can read about their history, you can learn about what the site’s about, and you can also engage with it by writing your response to what you want to see in the Buffalo Bayou,” Tran said.

Tran said she and other students have worked on projects like this one in the past, but they never came to fruition.

“We’ve done other community projects before that didn’t happen, but this one is really interesting because we can see it in real life, and people from the community can interact with it,” Tran said.

After doing this project, Tran said she hopes to do more community-based projects that have to deal will social awareness once she graduates.

This project offers a chance for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership to have dialogue with the community. Three of the installations — at Yolanda Black Navarro, Japhet Creek, and the Gravel Silos — are still posted along the bayou.

“At this event, we’re at out sites and engaging the community in different ways,” Serimontrikul said. “We just want people to come out and have fun and tell us what they want Buffalo Bayou Partnership to put in these park spaces.”

North York Boat Launch is one of the points represented alongside the Buffalo Bayou for the Encounter project. “Crossing Horizons” represents the connecting of the Second and Fifth Ward communities, which lay on either side of the bayou. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article the installation did not include all of the designers of Allen’s Landing installation along with Nadia Tran. We regret the error.

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