Houston First Corporation: George R. Brown Convention Center Request for Qualifications for Exterior Commission (Phase 2)

by Houston Arts Alliance January 23, 2015

Houston First Corporation: George R. Brown Convention Center
Request for Qualifications for Exterior Commission (Phase 2)
Budget: $1,360,000
Deadline: Friday, February 20, 2015,11:59 p.m. (CST)
Location: Houston, TX
Eligibility: International

1. Summary
Through a contract with Houston First Corporation (HFC), Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is charged with managing the selection process for the commission of an artist or artist-led team to develop a series of artworks and artistic interventions for the projects described below. HAA is also charged with contracting the finalist to complete the project. Houston First is leading the effort to have Houston recognized as one of the great cities of the world. Houston First is a local government corporation that manages more than 10 city-owned building, plazas and parking facilities. Properties include Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Wortham Center, George R. Brown Convention Center, Jones Hall and Hilton Americas-Houston.The mission of Houston First is to enhance the quality of life of Houstonians and to advance the economic prosperity and development of Houston through services, attractions and venues, and by inspiring:

  • The world to think Houston First
  • Houstonians to explore Houston First
  • Employees to deliver Houston First class service

2. Budget
The project has an anticipated budget of $1,360,000 inclusive of all work including, but not limited to, design proposals, artists fees, design, engineering, permitting, insurance costs for each year of the project, lighting software, studio and project administration, travel, fabrication, installation and required documentation. Houston Arts Alliance may award one or more contracts for the scope of work above, with the contracts totaling the budget amount.

3. Statement from the Architect about the Project
The George R. Brown Convention Center is the anchor to the city’s Convention District, a vibrant and rapidly evolving area of downtown Houston. Adjacent to Discovery Green, the city’s downtown public green, public art of many kinds, both permanent and temporary, coexists with nature and iconic buildings. Soon-to-be-opened rail lines connect visitors to key areas of the city, and new residential and hospitality projects are reshaping the cityscape, visitor profile and residential population of the Convention Center District.

To support the commercial, retail and residential development currently planned in the district, we need to create a truly walkable and vibrant street life.  We need to showcase the best that Houston has to offer in the way of dining, meeting and urban spaces for visitors from across the world, and we need to create inspiring civic spaces that continue to attract the regional population of more than six million.

Our vision for the reimagined Avenida de las Americas is to offer a stunning promenade for local residents and visitors that helps them connect with who we are as Houstonians–our diversity, our industrial, maritime and aerospace heritage, our sense of whimsy and our increasing commitment to the quality of life in an urban environment. Combined with picture-perfect views of our downtown skyline from the new floor of the renovated GRB to ceiling glass walls of facade, we hope to create a welcoming focal point for the district and a strong first impression of our city to visitors from all parts of the world. One of the unifying concepts for this project is Houston’s place as a stopping point for avian migration and the concept of flight. This is a subtle and ever-present element of Houston’s environment and cultural life, and is a strong analogy for Houston of today, a place where peoples from across the world come to live and work, within a terrain unique to Southeast Texas. This very real experience of the migration pattern is a physical reminder of our region’s great cultural and ethnic diversity, and the recent migration that has advanced the Houston area to become one of the world’s great urban regions.

4. Art Opportunities/Draft Scope of Work

  • Controlling and synchronizing the lights in the plaza: Lighting is located in the pavers leading up to the fountain, in the fountain, and suspended above the plaza. HFC is interested in having all three types of lights programmed so that from a distance, the lights are synchronized to create long linear “paths” from one end of the plaza to the other while utilizing the water fountain to create motion.
  • The second opportunity is presented in the form of a sculpture that includes movement, based on some form of mechanical motion, displayed in the water fountain area.
  • HFC is also interested in acknowledging the “Americas” in some form that would complement the installations, but not overshadow the architects’ inspiration.
  • See attached drawing for details on the site. The attached rendering is a conceptualization of how the space might look and is not intended to be directive to an artist or artist team’s proposal.

5. Evaluation Criteria

  • Artistic quality: Artists or artist-led teams are of the highest artistic caliber as demonstrated by examples of past work.
  • Responsiveness: Proposal successfully addresses the overall goals of the project, including creating a welcoming and inviting space for visitors and a visual connection to area amenities and buildings.
  • Demonstrated technical abilities: Applicants demonstrate that the artist or artist-led team has the necessary capability to accomplish the technical aspects of the project and to have the project meld successfully with the architecture and integrate with existing engineering and utilities.
  • Project Management Ability: Applicants demonstrate that they have the ability and the capacity to complete the project on a very tight schedule and within budget. Applicants demonstrate their ability to successfully collaborate with the architects and the contractor and have sufficient relationships with potential vendors and manufacturers.

6. Eligibility

As Houston is a global city, this opportunity is open to all professional artists or artist-led teams. Houston area artists, artist-led teams and team members are strongly encouraged to apply. Subcontractors may be used and are defined as those providing technical implementation including but not limited to construction, fabrication and/or assembly for portions or all of a finished product under direct supervision and control of an artist. No staff members, board members, advisory board members, city council members or their family members of Houston Arts Alliance, Houston First or the City of Houston. No current Houston First Corporation contractors. No artists who are currently under contract or in contract negotiations with Houston Arts Alliance for projects of over $100,000.  Applications not meeting all eligibility criteria will be withdrawn from consideration.

7. Application Requirements

  • 1. Resumes or company information of artist/s and team members (3 pages maximum each)
  • 2. Letter of intent that includes contact information and describes how the artist or artist-led team meets the criteria listed in the RFQ (1,000 words maximum)
  • 3. Biography/ artist statement (500 words maximum)
  • 4. Work Examples: 20 maximum. Digital images of works that demonstrate the above criteria. Only JPEGs up to 5 MB
  • 5. Image list including artist, title, year completed, dimensions, material and retail or commission price (if applicable) for each image in the artist’s portfolio
  • 6. Up to three professional references, no more than one page.

All documents should be in at least a 12-point font, single-spaced, with at least a ½” margin.

To submit, visit https://houstonartsalliance.submittable.com/submit.

If you have questions, please submit them in writing via email no later than 5:00 p.m. (CST) on Monday, February 16, to [email protected]. Answers to questions will be posted to the RFQ listed on Submittable.com as they are received and no later than Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

7. Timeline

  • January 22, 2015: RFQ released
  • February 16, 2015: Deadline for questions
  • February 20, 2015: RFQ submission deadline
  • By February 27, 2015: RFQ notification; RFP released to finalists
  • Week of March 6, 2015: Site visit for finalists
  • Week of March 6, 2015: Pre-proposal meeting via Go to Meeting
  • March 20, 2015 (final date TBA): RFP deadline
  • By March 27, 2015: RFP selection panel (including artists presentations)
  • March 30, 2015: Selected artist presented for a vote to the HAA Civic Art Committee
  • March 31, 2015: Selected artist presented for a vote to the HAA Board of Directors
  • April 1, 2015: Selected artist presented to Houston First Corporation for approval
  • April 1, 2015: Finalist notified in writing by HAA
  • April 15, 2015: Contracting complete
  • April – January 2016: Project development, fabrication and installation
  • January 2016: Completion and project close out

This timeline is subject to change.

8. Contact

For questions about the details of this call for qualifications contact:

Sara Kellner
Director of Civic Art + Design
Houston Arts Alliance
3201 Allen Parkway, Suite 250
Houston, TX 77019
[email protected]


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Bill Davenport January 23, 2015 - 11:30

The results will be announced April 1!

Chris Lockwood January 23, 2015 - 17:56


Troy Stanley January 23, 2015 - 12:31

April 1 for a deadline of January?
This renovation is going to make artists look bad with these timelines.

Capt. Obvious January 23, 2015 - 12:49

April 1 the artist will FIANLLY be contacted to begin work on a project that is to be complete in January of 2016? That a way to manage time. There are creators and managers opposite of whiners and clogs (sitting next to art consultants and sycophants).

Well I guess Glus’ Folklife Dept. is happy that the CAC has made such a mess to cover up their T&R debacle.

Dorota Biczel January 23, 2015 - 12:54

When I look at the timeline, I am thinking that HAA has already found the winning project.

Public Artist At-Large January 23, 2015 - 14:53

April Fools….HAA, the jokes on us!

Dan Havel January 26, 2015 - 14:43

Below is a link to a seminar run by Forecast Public Art, an organization in Mpls. run by my friend, Jack Becker. They are also the publisher of Public Art Review, the quarterly magazine about national and international public art. As far as I can see, they do it right and have an amazing track record of public art projects in Minnesota. We need to have HAA bring Forecast in to hold one of these forums, so we can change this process into a positive rather than a witch hunt.


Public Artist At-Large January 26, 2015 - 17:41

Great suggestion Dan.

There are resources and best practices all around the country for HAA to tap into. Remember, the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem. Those who are not ready to admit to a problem may not be able to seek the help they need, and they may be more likely to return to disrespecting local artists. Accepting that a problem exists and facing it may be difficult, but it makes the person/organization aware of it.

Dan Havel January 26, 2015 - 20:21

I have a feeling that HAA would not support outside dialogue on how to improve their public art process, because, as you say, they seem to think there is nothing to improve with a “we know what’s best” attitude. I hope I am wrong. I feel Sara Kellner is professional enough to seek solutions. HAA has supported my work, so i am appreciative of the organization for their help. However, I may seek another arts organization in town to bring Forecast in to show HAA that local artists are beyond calling names and that we have a vibrant, healthy, creative art community that is all about improving the process and creating a public art program made up of the best local, national, and international projects. It would make us all look good. But you are right, our suggestions may just fall on deaf ears to those who hold the financial strings

Troy Stanley January 26, 2015 - 22:13

Well you know Dan, they mayor just recently won the 2015 National Award for Local Arts Leadership from Americans For the Arts. Maybe send this to her, in case something slips through the cracks.


matthew lennon January 27, 2015 - 09:56

The process did not fail. Ed was selected by a unanimous vote from a panel of peers and client reps.

Whether looking at the Public Art Networks recommended procedures or consulting with Public Art Review you’ll find that the foundation of selection is the peer panel.

HAA’s leadership and the CAC displayed a complete disregard for the panel of professionals, client reps, the civic art team and local artists. As well as the client.

All this jabbering about process was instigated by HAA. It’s a distraction. Following their line of thought avoids the real issue.

The problem is leadership.

Dan Havel January 27, 2015 - 11:12

Thanks, Matthew. I agree. No more chasing squirrels….but where does that leave us if the leadership decides not to leave. As long as my selection is subject to change depending on what leadership wants or is influenced by other powers, I cannot volunteer to be on any selection panel at HAA. Wish I could, but I cannot. That’s the sad point.

matthew lennon January 27, 2015 - 12:29

Presently there seems to be a general lack of confidence and an overriding mistrust of HAA that permeates the visual art community. Until there’s real change why should artists or arts professionals participate.

It’s not just the disrespect for artists and arts professionals but the disregard for the client’s right of final approval that also concerns me.

HAA’s contract with H1 clearly defines the review panel in Exhibit A. Its two client reps and three arts professionals. There is no mention, or authority given, to the CAC. H1 further states in the final phase of selection:
3. Phase I Completion
Phase I shall end upon (i) selection by the Review Panel of the submitted Preliminary Design it reasonably believes to represent the best interests of the Project and HFC, and (ii) submittal by HAA of the Preliminary Design to HFC for approval.

H1 through its representation on the panel were informed of the selection and wanted to review the model at their executive meeting (Nov 7, 2014). I have total confidence that they would have approved the review panel’s unanimous selection of Ed’s work.

That H1 hasn’t stood up for its contractual rights is confusing. That the Mayor doesn’t know that the CAC is not authorized as ‘the selection committee’ speaks volumes to her misunderstanding of the situation and the misinformation she’s receiving.

My own opinion is that when HAA’s CEO stopped Ed’s model and concept from being reviewed by Houston First’s Executive Board he breached contract.

Shaw January 28, 2015 - 15:23

My understanding is that Glus denied the client’s contractual right to review? Why? What was he afraid of? The wrath of the CAC. Oooooo. Grow some.

More and more Glus seem to be nothing but a figurehead. Just what does he do to deserve such a trusted position and so much money?

Would the business people on HAA’s Board tolerate him in their
businesses? Inept, inarticulate, interfering, incincere… Are these qualities of leadership?

Django Nguyen February 13, 2015 - 10:34

Did anyone listen to the KPFT program last night at 6? Why did they not ask Kellner any real questions? How is she qualified, because everyone thinks she is nice?? How about her knowing anything about fabrication of public art, or the logistics and painstaking issues of installation.

After listening to that attempt at positive PR, she basically has a city position that she never applied for, and that was never opened up to a public call after Matthew Lennon resigned.

Nothing against her, I hear she is really nice.

michael woodson February 16, 2015 - 12:11

about the livingart show on 150212 featuring a 20 minute segment with sara kellner:

the show was not focused on kellner’s qualifications. sure, i’d heard she was offered the civic art and design director position by a closed process. i’d not heard any serious criticism of her capabilities. that she was swept into the position vacated by lennon is no secret. i have the idea haa broke no rules in doing so.

i’d offered haa’s ceo jonathon glus (who appeared on 150205) and kellner interviews on livingart because i was running a 5 week series of interviews on haa’s ed wilson debacle. they both declined to address the topic in preinterviews. i did the series because i received request for it from artists, it seems a live topic, and shared power at haa has come up in houston art dialogue in at least 3 different instances over many many months. what did glus (and kellner) fail to say? that’s what i heard.

the most disturbing questions about the ed wilson matter came from tracey cronwell. i interviewed her after kellner. i believe the issues are: 1. the cac overstepping its bounds and this breach of process being backed by paid haa employees and its executive board. 2. a cover-up of same.

due to haa’s silence, i expect any day now for haa to issue a simple statement to explain itself. i must be thick. but more than one person has told me, this is the way it works in the arts. what a sad model when art should be a leading one.

and as for the economic pressures we artists feel vis a vis an $860,000 commission? isn’t that an elephant?

michael woodson
livingart producer and host, kpft non-paid staff.

Shaw February 17, 2015 - 11:11

You’re right Mr. Woodson, Tracey Conwell laid out the ‘disturbing’ aspects about HAA and the ‘overstepping’ of the CAC. It seems that the CAC are ‘hijacking’ the public art program for their own gratification.

Is the CEO so comatose that he forgot the agreed upon selection process described in the GRB contract he signed? Shouldn’t he have warned the CAC that they were overstepping their role?

Ms. Conwell also raised questions about the qualifications of the committee, their ability to ‘judge’ artists and their work or the worthiness of the panelists. My understanding of a Peer Panel is that it is just that, a panel of peers. Working professionals. Non-practicing but ‘trained’ curators, bureaucrats, collectors and business folk don’t strike me as ‘peers’. Isn’t the CEO supposed to be guiding these people, if so, he ain’t doing’ a very good job.

It feels like we really know so little about HAA practices, after all it runs on city and tax money. Is the Hotel Motel Tax being used correctly? Spread out fairly among artist and organizations? Right now it seems there’s a lot of money being spent spinning HAA as the city’s art commandants.
HAA’s Simple Simons may soon be ready to issue a simpleton’s statement. Isn’t it all too little too late?


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