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East End: Transported + Renewed

East End: Transported + Renewed
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By Luna Oliveira
Photo courtesy of Forest Fotography

On September 1st, the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) launched a series of community-supported events around Houston’s East End. Transported + Renewed is a year-long project with a two-month long commitment of bringing art to the public, free of charge.  These programs will run until November 30th.

The idea for this project came from the celebration of the centennial of the Houston Ship Channel. Stretching 50 miles from downtown to Galveston Bay, the Houston Ship Channel has made the city almost everything it is today. In a city of such a large population where public transportation is not the main priority, it seems almost silly to think it got to where it is because of accessibility.

East End, located along the Buffalo Bayou, is the perfect place to celebrate — it breathes the birthplace of the Ship Channel (both figuratively and literally — and it is not always the freshest breath). With Allen’s Landing located within the neighborhood, it marks the start of this “five-lane highway” on water that ends in Galveston Bay. This neighborhood’s ability to adapt to the constant growth and drenching of this Bayou and the community’s development around the Channel awards it the ideal place for the centennial event.

It is impossible to fail to note the attention the East End has received over the past few years. When developing the theme for the Transported half of the HAA project, the group also took into account Houston’s current investment in the new METRO Rail line cutting across the neighborhood. Besides the ability of access created by the rail line, it is also important to note the sharing of ideas and the crossing of paths that can occur from a better public transportation system. Much like an art event at a park might gather neighbors and re-unite longtime friends; the train can become a meeting point, a connection in people’s lives. The rail will bring Houston to East End’s footstep and Transported + Renewed brings art to the footsteps of the community.

The Renewed half of the project can be associated with the development of an area for the better. Greater connection and sharing of concepts can enliven a neighborhood. This exchange of ideas is part of the constant evolutionary process necessary to build a community’s character. A public art display, for example, can serve as a gathering point and an icon to an area. We all know the “Transco Tower.” This renewal of the East End is tied back to the rail, the Ship Channel, the modes of transportation and their potential to engender encounters between members of the community.

Although some critics contend that established, long-term resident artists in the East End were passed up for these public commissions, HAA claims that the events by in Transported + Renewed are community driven and conscious of local talent.  Starting with the five public art installations themed for transportation displayed around Houston throughout the length of the project. These include works by Jesse Sifuentes, Amber Eagle, Patrick Renner, Sharon Engelstein and 5 site-specific art installations in and around East End businesses along the new Metro Green Line rail by artists Kelly Alison, Elaine Bradford, Johnathan Leach, Emily Link and Mat Wolff.

Included in the series are ongoing activities through November 30th produced by HAA. The Hear Our Houston East End Walking Tours involve a public-generated walking tour around the city. Participants take a walk while recording their thoughts about the places they are walking by “archiving local knowledge along the way.” These tours are downloadable and free of charge so that fellow Houstonians can follow in the original producers footsteps while hearing her reflections on the walk.  The East End Bicycle Opera is a collaboration of multiple sources that created a GPS-activated speaker attached to a bike — influencing cyclists to move to the beat of the music they are hearing. These bikes are located at the Ripley House Neighborhood Center.

The parades incorporated in the project also reflect the theme of transportation. The first parade being Afloat! A Parade on Water, held along the Buffalo Bayou, the second Afoot! A Marching Band Extravaganza, and the third Around! A Parade on Wheels, a different take on our beloved Art Car Parade.

Transported + Renewed also held three Buffalo Bayou Silos Series, celebratory events of several themes and three shows of musicians Osvaldo Ayala, David Lee Garza, and Celso Piña as part of the Latino music series.

Angel Quesada, Folklife and Traditional Arts Program Manager for Transported + Renewed, defines art as nourishment. “Art is food for the soul” says Quesada. Transported + Renewed managed to bring the theme of the project and the neighborhood of the East End together beautifully. Always maintaining consciousness of the community and local artists, this project is an example to be followed.

All events are free and open to the public. For weekly event listings call the Transported + Renewed Hotline at 713.481.2819 (English) or 713.481.9538 (Spanish).

If hotrods and low riders are your thing or you just love parades and/or the East End, check out the parade organized by Houston Arts Alliance as part of the  Transported + Renewed series. It starts at 11 am on Saturday, November 15, and will be going down York & Sampson Streets (aka Scott St) between Preston and Navigation.