In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, Musician Pete Gordon takes us on a looped walk around Midtown where he has owned and operated The Continental Club for ten years. 3700 Main used to be a general store in the 1920s and is now a thriving music venue and bar run by Pete, who loves preserving the old architecture while importing some of Austin’s quirkiness after the original Continental Club. I personally recommend stopping by on a Monday night to hear the masterful contemporary tango composer and piano man Glover Gill. Sink into a Southern pace and the pats of Pete’s cowboy boots while he recalls the area’s evolution over the past ten years, marvels at his favorite buildings, and hopes for preservation of historic architecture moving forward. Listen by clicking on the link below:
Midtown by Pete Gordon
George Greanias and Lillian Warren
We all are familiar with Houston’s no-zoning tradition and have been cautioned not to romanticize or over-estimate its beneficent influence on our chockablock city. Perhaps, though, we can successfully practice no-zoning for conversations and confrontations that otherwise languish in isolated “discourse communities.” That model seemed to be the impetus behind a series of three conversations hosted at Rudolph Blume Fine Art/ArtScan Gallery which had as their background an exhibit of paintings by Lillian Warren called “Urban Landscapes” (April 30 through June 4, 2011; 1836 Richmond Avenue).
Last Thursday, May 12, about a dozen people gathered to participate in the second of these discussions, called “At the Intersection of Art & Traffic.” Houston METRO President and CEO George Greanias and Warren led the dialogue.
Philip Brown of Smith Opticians shows off some of his eclectic collection.
OffCite presents the twelfth submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Sarah Gish. Click here to learn about making your own submission.
It all started with a pair of blue-framed, yellow-lensed sunglasses that I bought in Los Angeles for ten bucks off the street. Buying those glasses was an epiphany moment for me: it was like turning on a little switch making me desire funky eyewear. From then on, I desperately wanted to wear the blue glasses every day. As luck would have it, shortly after that special moment, I happened to be at a party with the Alley Theatre costume designer and she offered that perhaps Philip Brown at Smith Opticians could come to my rescue. He did. Instead of using the too-fragile cheapie frames, I found some other more interesting and sturdier blue frames. They weren’t expensive and I was hooked, line and sinker! Ever since then, I have gone back to get frames in every color imaginable (seven pairs and counting) and Philip and his employee Carlos have become dealers who fuel my addiction to their unique frames.
Photo by Steven Thomson
It was 7:30 p.m. on a brisk Saturday evening in February, and Esther Gutstein rushed to mount the final pieces for the opening of her gallery, the Brayer Room. The first guests had already arrived: a mix of camera-clad young artists and their friends, along with a bevy of older art collectors. The crowd populated the gallery’s one-story, historic 6,000-square-foot building at 214 Fairview Street, seeking a glimpse of the city’s emerging artists, or at the very least, a view on one of Houston’s newest gallery spaces.
Only days later, not a trace of the Brayer Room would remain. That’s because Gutstein mounts a gallery pro tem, arguably the first local incarnation of the international phenomenon of “pop-up” art spaces. In the wake of a global recession, a glut of unoccupied real estate has been reinvigorated as alternative art spaces in the vein of the Brayer Room. While this pattern can be traced to the art nexuses of London, New York, and Chicago, the Brayer Room is a distinctly Houston endeavor.
The Summer issue of Cite (82) is now in the mail and will soon be at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, Issues, Domy, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. Below guest editors Michelangelo Sabatino and Bruce Webb share a letter about the special issue and the Table of Contents.
By the time the Media Center at Rice University opened in February 1970 and Gunnar Birkerts silver-sided Contemporary Arts Museum hosted its ﬁrst exhibit in 1972, the Aquarian generation had already gathered at Woodstock for a festival of peace and music. John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were dead and the ﬁrst public demonstrations against the Vietnam War had taken place in Washington. Both the center and the museum became prominent sites of Houston’s participation in the counterculture that was agitating America. They were the tip of the iceberg, temples for performing rituals of the avant-garde; but all around Houston there was a proliferation of places and activities that belonged to the “youthful opposition” that historian Theodore Roszak identiﬁed in “The Making of Counter Culture.”
August 1970 issue of Space City!, cover image courtesy Houston Metropolitan Research Center
“The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is watching you.”
An arrow bearing that note was shot into the Space City! office. The incident was one among many threats and acts of violence against progressive and radical institutions in Houston. The KPFT station transmitter was bombed off the air twice. Bullets were shot at and yellow paint thrown on the walls of Margaret Webb Dreyer‘s gallery, which she ran out of her home from 1961 to 1975. The gallery had served as a counterculture hub according to Thorne Dreyer, her son and an editor of Space City!.
Thorne Dreyer shared these stories at an event on alternative media also featuring veteran writers Tom Curtis, Gabrielle Cosgriff, and Michael Berryhill. The Museum of Printing History hosted the panel discussion in conjunction with “Underground in H-Town,” an exhibition that highlights the importance of minority and alternative publications in local history.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, all images by Susan Rogers
While Houston often parallels national trends, it also bucks them. Looking at one slice of the city, — the Bellaire/Holcombe Corridor from the Medical Center to Highway 6 — provides insight into the major shifts that have occurred in the landscape and demographics of our cities over the last 20 years.
First a little history. Immigration to the U.S. spiked in two periods: the first period roughly around 1900 and the second at the turn of the 21st century. Yet the two periods are strikingly dissimilar, in one era assimilation was rewarded and quite seamless as most new residents arrived from Europe, in the second era a transnational approach is more common, where global connections to home countries, cultural traditions, and languages are maintained.
“I came home with a high fever; my ears still hurt. Just from the noise — a ringing in my ears. It is very toxic. But it’s Houston.”
Jenny Lynn Weitz-Amaré Cartwright is describing the after effects of Sunday’s Furniture Sale on North Freeway (announced last week on OffCite), a daylong event at the abandoned Landmark Chevrolet dealership on Interstate 45. Presented by wacdesignstudio, which consists of husband-wife team Scott Cartwright and Jenny Lynn, the guerilla retail event launched the studio’s first furniture line, designed and fabricated with an attention to the modesty of scale, materials, and production.
Scott Cartwright and Jenny Lynn Weitz-Amare Cartwright showcase their first furniture line. [Photo courtesy wacdesignstudio]
In January, the New York Times reported that employment at US architecture firms had dropped from its July 2009 peak at 224,500 to 184,600 by November. Commercial development has ground to a halt, the big car manufacturers have pulled the plug on many dealerships, and a number of big box stores have closed. As an article by Susan Rogers in the next issue of Cite will discuss, vast amounts of land in the city are withering, wasting, wild, and waiting. It is in this context that two young designers have announced a “guerilla retail event,” the “Furniture Sale on North Freeway.”
Model of Cave of New Being and meditation pond
With the growing genre of architecture generated by biomorphic design and biomimetic processes, a reevaluation of Frederick J. Kiesler’s work is ever more timely. During the mid-20th century he became increasingly occupied with the relationship of structure and natural form in architecture. The Cave of the New Being (also known as the Grotto for Meditation), proposed in the 1960s for New Harmony and contracted by Mrs. Blaffer Owen, represented the designer’s pièce de résistance, embodying all of the intellectual currents of his era, from surrealism to biotechnics, yet it was never realized.