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Sunday, June 4, 2023


A message to Houston’s art scene: Show us what you’re made of


Tons of local Houston artists remain undiscovered and unappreciated, but how do we combat this problem? l Photo by Emily Hubbard/The Cougar

Whether you’ve been here your whole life or moved into town recently, if you’re into any medium of creativity you might have noticed Houston’s lack of payoff in the art scene. Often times if you come across genuine creativity, it’s packing its bags for New York or California — or any other major city that’s willing to invest in its work.

The unfortunate fact remains that Houston does not invest in its artists, and its artists don’t invest in each other either. It’s a cyclical mindset that furthers unhealthy competition and creates an unproductive space for artists of all genres to be inspired or to inspire. What should we do we do with a city so full of potential? Mobilize.

So, why don’t we?

No one predicted the massive force Houston would become, with a growing population that soon will mark us as the third largest city in the United States. Besides few exceptions like the Project Row Houses and the non-profit Menil Collection — spaces created specifically to stimulate a potential focus on creativity — the general rule in Houston is that we are energy funded and energy driven.

More spaces for creativity and interaction among each other are a must in the process of utilizing Houston’s creative communities.

Many of us meet others via Instagram or Twitter, but “unless you actually shake hands with another person, you don’t really know them,” says digital media junior Nemo Takleab. “A growing population doesn’t necessarily mean a growing art scene, and a growing social media following doesn’t necessarily mean a growing network.”

However, many continue to find themselves complacent among a group of people who don’t put others on. The competition is high, but the stakes are low. With so little payoff, most people cling on to any semblance of recognition they can get. We aren’t greedy, we’re just deprived.

Houston’s lack of artistic innovation is a result of many different things, little to no funding being just one of the few. Without creative spaces or investment, many Houston artists might feel they’re just fending for themselves.

As artists, we must hold each other accountable as well. Lack of funding isn’t the only reason we have such a divided community.

I spoke to various students at the University of Houston, some who make music, some who make art, some who are only just getting their feet wet. Many don’t necessarily feel as if they are a part of any scene at all, but rather consider themselves to be spectators of a “cliquey” and “aimless” conglomerate of internet personas that glorify an art scene that doesn’t really exist to the extent its portrayed.

Mobilizing is hard. It becomes even harder in a fractured community that seems unwilling to grow together. We see examples of cooperation within production and clothing collectives such as InHouse Interactives, Time Zone Global, GreaterGoode Lab, and even films like Connor Cleveland’s unreleased ‘Be Someone’, a documentary about artists in Houston.

These are creators who want to move mountains in impossible places, and they’re willing to work together to get it done. Perhaps we should be inspired. They’re not our competitors, they’re our peers. Keeping that in mind may be what propels Houston’s art scene into something worth talking about.

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