Rendering of "Doughty Do" by Sharon Engelstein. The installation to open in March 29 at the Animal Service Facility includes 38 cast aluminum horses and two dogs.

After the Firestorm: The Future of Civic Art

In November 2008, the Houston Arts Alliance was the target of an ABC13 Wayne Dolcefino report on the civic art program. The segment—titled “Where’s the Art?”—questions the purpose of Margo Sawyer’s “Synchronicity of Color” installations at Discovery Green. The structures, which cover stairwells, are repeatedly referred to as a “waste” by an interviewee. The report goes on to question the rate at which projects have been completed.

The civic art team at the Houston Arts Alliance has responded with an exhibit and series of discussions at the Space125gallery about upcoming plans for Houston municipal artwork. It includes sketches, design elements, information about the process, and examples of civic artwork. The next event is tomorrow, Thursday, February 19 from 6:00 to 7:30pm. It features artist Sharon Engelstein and Cite editorial committee member José Solis.

A bit of history: ten years ago, the city adopted an ordinance that sets aside 1.75 percent of municipal construction costs (not including price of land or road projects for example) to go to the development of civic art. During the past ten years, the city’s collection has grown to include upwards of 400 pieces. The vast majority of these pieces are found in local parks and libraries, while a significant portion are paintings held by various city departments.

The nine projects currently in the pipeline for Houston include several exciting works by locally prominent and nationally known artists: mosaics produced through community collaboration by Reginald Adams, a huge mural at the Looscan neighborhood library by Bert Long, the row of 38 carrousel horses by Sharon Englestein, and the proposed bridge collaboratively designed by Elmgreen + Dragset and SWA Group set to cross Buffalo Bayou at Montrose.

The Space125gallery exhibition at 3201 Allen Parkway will be on view until March 6.

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