Rice rallies to support Houston arts community impacted by Hurricane Harvey

This fall, Art League Houston was planning a retrospective of its 2017 Texas Artist of the Year, Trenton Doyle Hancock, one of the state’s most celebrated and influential contemporary artists. The show was originally set to open Sept. 8 at the Art League’s building on Montrose Boulevard, but after Tropical Storm Harvey, roof damage above the building’s gallery space made it impossible to host an exhibition there for at least two months.

Trenton Doyle Hancock puts finishing touches on his exhibition, “Texas: 1997-2017,” which opened in the former Rice Gallery space in Sewall Hall Sept. 29. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Jennie Ash, the Art League’s visual arts director, put urgent calls out to contacts in the Houston art community to find an alternative space to host the show. Alison Weaver, the Suzanne Deal Booth Executive Director of Rice’s Moody Center for the Arts, stepped up. Encouraged by Rice President David Leebron, Weaver worked with Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby and Facilities Engineering and Planning staff to secure and arrange the former Rice Art Gallery space in Sewall Hall, on the east side of campus, which is awaiting transformation into a welcome center.

“We are reaching out to the arts community of Houston and offering help in this time of need,” said Weaver, who also hosted Da Camera of Houston’s recent auditions for its young artist program at the Moody. The presenter of chamber music and jazz needed a new space after its regular space, the Houston Theater District’s Wortham Center, was damaged by flooding. “Rice is really there for its arts colleagues,” Weaver said.

“Texas: 1997-2017 by Trenton Doyle Hancock” opened Sept. 29 and will run through Nov. 18. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s really amazing,” Ash said when standing in the Sewall Hall gallery space days before opening night and discussing the speed at which the exhibition found a new home at Rice. “When I told Trenton about it, he said how nice it was that two organizations are working together to support the project. So here we are!”

The exhibition focuses on work made by Hancock during the past two decades in which he has lived and worked in Texas. His art speaks to the experience of the black diaspora and is deeply woven into the fabric of pop culture and avant-garde cartoons. The exhibition features more than 50 works in a diverse range of media, including mixed-media, painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking. The works in the exhibition highlight a vast cross section of materials and textures that not only trace the development of the artist’s epic narrative but also mark the significant evolutions within the artist’s dynamic and imaginative art-making practice, according to the Art League.

“There’s a history in this (former Rice Gallery) space that I’m happy to be a part of,” Hancock said. “It’s a beautiful thing that Rice was able to step forward and accommodate us. I feel really grateful because the name of Rice is going to get out, and people are going to come from not only the community but from outside of town to be able to see the show.”

Hancock’s show will be on view at the same time as the Moody’s exhibition of Mickalene Thomas, “Waiting on a Prime-Time Star.” Weaver said the artists “are insightful commentators on our time. I hope visitors to Rice will have the opportunity to visit both exhibitions while they’re on campus. While each artist offers a unique perspective, their proximity creates opportunities for dialogue that might not otherwise exist.”

Houston’s arts organizations at the Shepherd School of Music

The Moody’s outreach is part of a larger effort at Rice to connect with Houston arts organizations impacted by the devastating floods of Harvey. The Shepherd School of Music, located on the west side of campus, is fortunate to have the ability to open its facilities to organizations for rehearsals and performances as Houston continues to recover, the school’s dean, Robert Yekovich, said.

Alice Pratt Brown Hall, home of the Shepherd School of Music, is currently hosting the rehearsals, performances and events of various leading Houston arts organizations impacted by Harvey.

Performances by the Houston Symphony have temporarily relocated to the school’s Stude Concert Hall these past three weeks from the Theater District’s flood-damaged Jones Hall. Inprint’s Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, for which the readings are usually held at the Wortham Center or Jones Hall, will also temporarily move to Stude Concert Hall, and Mercury, Houston’s baroque ensemble, will be performing additional concerts there through March 2018.

“The 1,000-seat Stude Concert Hall offered an intimate, immersive experience with the orchestra, aided by a balanced acoustic presence that Jones Hall doesn’t quite measure up to, despite the work of multiple acousticians over the years,” the Houston Chronicle wrote in its coverage of the Houston Symphony’s second concert at the school Sept. 23. “With seating surrounding the stage on all sides of the Stude’s mahogany-trimmed auditorium, there’s no doubt that the audience is in the same space as the musicians.”

The Shepherd School is currently working with Houston Grand Opera and DaCamera on events to be held at Rice in spring 2018, for which final details are still being confirmed.

Additionally, auditions for several young artist opera programs, originally scheduled to be held at the Wortham Center, have been scheduled to take place in Alice Pratt Brown Hall.

“We felt a profound sense of responsibility to assist as many of Houston’s premier musical organizations as possible in this time of extraordinary need,” Yekovich said.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.