Friday, July 22, 2011

Why No Posts For Two Weeks?

It's been two weeks since I've posted on this blog. I have been otherwise totally and endlessly engaged with two small grandchildren who, with their mom, visited Houston for the aforementioned two weeks. Yep, they flew from cold rainy Seattle into Houston's summer of heat and drought.
With their arrival, I experienced a full motherhood/parenting flashback, which means that for two weeks, I did not complete one task that did not involve small children, nor did I maintain any flow of coherent thought. My right ear is in pain from sustaining the cries of rage and joy of four year old Lulu Bell and seven year old Charlie Bean. Most of their outbursts were in response to the ploys of each to irritate the other. Ah, sibling rivalry. For a first hand explanation of one of innumerable fractious moments, read The Great Paper Fan Fight.
We went to the beach for five whole days, we swam in friend's pools, we rode on the train at Hermann Park, we visited friends and family, we played at the Kids Space at Space Center Houston and the Children's Museum. We visited Beth Collins Wray where Lulu Bell sat at Dick's desk using watercolors within sight of a portrait of Matisse.
Caroline, Beth and I ate steel cut oats with molasses in the kitchen and actually had a running conversation. Oh, the wonder of colored pencils and paint under the tutelage of Matisse to properly direct a four year old's attention.
We even made a brief visit to the Houston Permitting Center, because I simply had to show off this new building to my eldest daughter. Her last visit home was almost two years ago, for the opening of Second Seating in September, 2009.
Kaneem, Charlie Bean interacted with your piece. Totally. The chimes were resounding. Joe and Andrew, the dials for your sensors were bouncing. Wish we'd been there during the work day so we'd have seen the results of children's heavy breathing.
It remains a great human mystery why I love these grandchildren so deeply and watched over them so carefully, while at the same time, pronounced profanities under my breath with unrelenting frequency. It is a mystery to me that what I will remember about these two weeks are the tender moments, the hugs and the eyes filled with wonder. I will overlook the Cheerios underfoot and my aching ear. Maybe.
And now that my head is clearing, I can, once again, write more about 1002 Washington Avenue. Plaques for the artwork have been proofed and ordered. There is a ten to fourteen day turnaround for these etched stainless steel plaques and then we'll get them installed so visitors will have the most basic information about each artwork.
COH's General Services is compiling content for four on-line tracks of information about this new facility. The interrelated tracks include the building's history, its green construction, on-going sustainability and the artwork. All of the art, by the way, relates to the city's commitment to reuse and sustainability and to Houston's broad cultural diversity.
But, let's back up a moment to bookend the discussion of my last two weeks. All of us have families and commitments and life changing events. During this year of creating artwork for 1002 Washington Avenue, it is worth noting that GONZO247 married Carolyn Casey, Joe Meppelink and his wife had a new baby and artist Dick Wray died. Life passages all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Permitting Made Easy

Photos and mentions of the new Houston Permitting Center are beginning to show up on-line. Here's one from the Houston blog Is This Houston? houston by phone camera.Houston Permitting Center 1002 Washington

Lisa Gray's 'Coffee, Not Kafka' Now On-Line

I take it all back. Lisa Gray's story in the Houston Chronicle titled 'Coffee, Not Kafka' is now on-line. OK, there was no instant gratification on Sunday morning - meaning, I could not forward her story on the new Houston Permitting Center to the entire world. That is, of course, the first thing one wants to do. But today, it's right there on-line, so enjoy.

Houston Chronicle's Lisa Gray Touts New Facility

I wish that the Houston Chronicle would publish its entire Sunday edition on at the same time the newspaper hits the curb in front of my house. That would have made for instant gratification. Meaning that I could forward 'Coffee, Not Kafka', Lisa Gray's terrific story on the new Houston Permitting Center, to the entire world as well linking to this blog. I expect that Lisa's take on the facility will eventually make its way on-line. But not soon enough for me.
In the meantime, grab the STAR section of Sunday's paper from the trash and enjoy a good read. She gives the place a great review. Thank you, Lisa Gray, for absolutely 'getting' this building.
And by the way, speaking of putting information on-line for instant gratification, a year ago, we talked about putting barcodes by each of the artful interventions in the permitting center, so folks could download pertinent information. I even visited the convention center to find out about their 'cell phone tours' for a low tech version. Just a week ago, I wandered through The Big Show at Lawndale and each piece had a label with a QR code. I also notice that the Houston Press is filled with QR codes.
Folks do indeed want instant information/gratification and I'll bet that if there were QR codes next to the artwork at the Houston Permitting Center, they'd be well used. Which means my job is not done until it's done.
And thank you, once again, Lisa Gray, for 'seeing' what this new Houston Permitting Center is all about.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dick Wray's Tower

I know, I know, it is time I changed the photo on this blog's masthead to show off Dick Wray's four story stainless steel, laser cut, black powder coated, four story elevator tower. It's about time.
Charles Masterson and his crew did a great job and I need to upload many more photos of the installation process post haste.

Civic Art Matters

It's always helps to have contextual information about the subject at hand, so here is a link to Houston's Municipal Art initiatives. We are lucky indeed that in 1999, City Council passed an ordinance that designates 1.75% of specific project construction budgets be used to create and display civic art. Council certainly had the big picture in mind, no pun intended.
In a 2009 op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle, Houston Arts Alliance's Jonathon Glus gives his take on the importance of civic art in big American cities. I agree with him. It's important and ultimately income producing.
The good news right now is that throughout the new Houston Permitting Center, there is a lot of art to see and experience. Art truly in the public realm.
That being said, after watching folks in the building today, I have the sense that they are all very, very focused on their individual permitting processes and may not be taking in the surroundings at all.
Perhaps after a few trips, they'll begin to look around and see just what a cool building this is.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Recreate/Houston/Reuse: Words On a Wall

Yesterday afternoon and evening, Robynn Sanders painted the first section of the 88 foot long basement corridor wall. We are working with recycling and all kinds of 're-words' in five languages, the concept being to reflect the cultural diversity in Houston and the universality of remaking, recycling and reinventing.
Now that I've just written the word 'reinventing,' it occurs to me that this word speaks directly, not only to diversity, but to the opportunity that Houston offers each of us to reinvent ourselves using individual talents and skills. So, this 88 foot wall does not only carry a recycling message. It goes further than that to say that in Houston, "We can reinvent both ourselves and our city. We can grow ourselves and our city." I may be getting a bit too metaphorical and poetic here, but you get what where this wall could go.
Here are photos from yesterday. Robynn has found it a challenge to use 'green' paint, as it seems to be thinner both on the wall and on the brush. It is definitely not lush and creamy.
Here's the palette she mixed. Blue for English, terra cotta for Spanish, red for Chinese, green for Vietnamese and teal for Arabic, plus a dose of gray for the recycling logo.
Here are the first two words or characters being painted. Spanish and Chinese.
Najwa, the wonderful lady who worked with me on Arabic translations, chuckled when she saw these two photos, because Phil is painting the Arabic from left to right. Arabic reads from right to left. Doesn't matter. Those who can read it, will move their eyes from right to left.
The genesis of this wall occurred last fall when I attended the ribbon cutting for Neighborhood Centers' new Gulfton campus, where I learned that their clients speak over 80 different languages. Wow! Gulfton is just one part of Houston, a microcosm of the whole. I loved the fact that so many languages are used right here in my city. What a gift.
I suppose I could have visited Gulfton to collect the word 'recycle' in 80 languages. I did not do that. But I did think about using more than English and Spanish words. I wrote a list of English words that begin with re-. It was easy to come up with nearly 50 in a few minutes time. In retrospect, it might have been fun to play with the Latin root word from whence so many of these words come from. I digress.
The making of this wall has been very much a collaborative experience. To obtain 're-words' in at least five languages, I reached out to friends who speak the language I wanted or have a friend who can. As things progressed, at least a dozen people were involved in making or confirming translations. I am still toying with adding in at least a word or two of French and Russian, both languages well represented in Houston. I may still call friends for one or two more words. After all, this wall is 88 feet long and a work in progress.
This wall has become an unexpected joy on which to work, because it involved so many Houstonians. What might have happened if we'd involved 100? I see another project down the road.