Houston’s Idea Fund Announces 2019 Grantees

by Brandon Zech December 7, 2018

The Idea Fund logo Houston Texas grant for artists

The Idea Fund in Houston, a re-granting program of funds from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, managed by Aurora Picture Show, DiverseWorks, and Project Row Houses, has announced its 2019 grantees. With this new group of awarded artists, the program celebrates its 11th consecutive year. It also continues a novel way of awarding funding applicants that began in 2015: Instead of giving a flat amount of money to all awardees, it breaks down grants into four categories: Stimulus ($7,000), Catalyst ($4,000), Spark ($1,000), and Research & Development ($1,000).

Jurors for the 2019 award included: Kimberly Drew, former Social Media Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; Jake Margolin, an artist and 2018 Idea Fund recipient; and Cameron Shaw, the former executive director and founding editor of Pelican Bomb in New Orleans. The group selected 12 projects out of 133 applicants.

See a description of awarded projects below.

Stimulus ($7,000):

Artist: JooYoung Choi
Project: C.S. Watson and the Bio-Engineered “Ultra” Protagonist: An Examination of the Impact of Symbolic Annihilation and an Exploration of the Evolutionary Potentialities of Sci-fi/Fantasy Media
Project Description: Through the creation of a video-art piece, JooYoung Choi plans to explore intersectionality and the issue of symbolic annihilation through the visual art form of narrative time-based media. The Idea Fund will support Choi’s artistic process, pre-and post-production, and community building components such as conducting interviews with women-artists-of-color, a series of artist studio visits, and a public presentation of the final project that will consist of an artist talk and screening held in Koreatown.

Artists: Virginia Diaz, Adán Medrano, & Lucía Aljas
Project: The Roots of Texas Mexican Food
Project Description: The Roots of Texas Mexican Food is the untold story of Texas indigenous cooking as the artistic act of resistance to colonization. Archaeological footage and oral histories document how the first peoples of Texas, arriving 15,000 years ago, are the ancestors of today’s Mexican American community. Through The Idea Fund, Virginia Diaz, Adán Medrano, and Lucía Aljas will work together in post-production to further develop The Roots of Texas Mexican Food and host two public screenings of the documentary film that highlights the central role of women play as the engineers of cooking technologies and the artistic creators of culinary traditions.

Artist: Harrison Guy
Project: Black Arts Movement Houston (BAM)
Project Description: Historically, the Black Arts Movement was the name given to a group of politically motivated black poets, artists, dramatists, musicians, and writers who emerged in the wake of the Black Power Movement. The Black Arts Movement was formally established in 1965 when Amiri Baraka opened the Black Arts Repertory Theatre in Harlem. The synergy between creatives was a nod to the communal legacy of Black people. The Idea Fund will support Guy in the creation of a project that seeks to create that same synergy for Black artists in Houston by providing a space to build connection and community, creating an environment that fosters a platform for collaboration, and developing a hub for imagining and dreaming, with Blackness as the center.

Artists: Jessica Ninci & Dan Schmahl
Project: Rising Tide Projects
Project Description: Through The Idea Fund, Jessica Ninci and Dan Schmahl will develop the Rising Tide Projects, an artist-run hybrid space that will serve as equal parts gallery, workshop/community space, and retail hub that takes into consideration the architectural issues associated with Galveston Island’s environmental future. Together, Jessica and Dan will design Rising Tide Projects as a space not only to showcase art but to re-envision gallery practices that respond and create a flexibility around the utilization of a space that is constantly at risk of possible flooding.

Artist: Henry G. Sanchez
Project: The Bio-Art Bayou-torium
Project Description: Henry G. Sanchez’s Bio-Art Bayou-torium will engage with the Hispanic audience to view Buffalo Bayou from an artistic, scientific and environmental perspective. The Bio-Art Bayou-torium is an art studio situated on a boat launch on the banks of Buffalo Bayou across from Tony Marron Park in Houston’s Second Ward district. The artists will collaborate with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) to engage participants and community members in a new aesthetic experience with this hidden natural resource. With support from The Idea Fund, Sanchez will create a small classroom-size studio space that houses science tools and imaging equipment for making art based on the nature and history of Buffalo Bayou.

Artist: Carrie Schneider
Project: Houston Water Baths
Project Description: Houston Water Baths is an experimental project that questions Houston’s associations to water post-Harvey and in the face of climate change. For the 2019 Idea Fund cycle, Schneider will develop a series of eleven tub-scale bath experiences from her current research project Water Baths into a large-scale performance/installation that includes modulating lights, temperature, and sound. Houston Water Baths will use the common bath to cohere eleven different points of view on Hurricane Harvey and climate change in Houston. The eleven baths represent each City Council District and serve as a survey of the city’s relationship to water, not through census data but through sensory imagination.

Catalyst ($4,000):

Artist: Zuqiang Peng
Project: Inauguration
Project Description: For his Idea Fund project, Peng will develop the film project, Inauguration, that focuses on the presence and absence of Chinese political history in Texas. Using the untold history of two young Chinese Cubans who traveled to Texas to participate in the inaugural congress of the revolutionary group Young China Association as a starting point, Peng will draft a fictionalized narrative of a young woman’s journey into a search for the presence/absence of the Young China Association in the setting of contemporary Houston. By creating a work that specifically looks at such absences in history, as well as showing it in spaces where the local communities gather, Peng will invite different audiences to think and reflect on questions of absence and representation in history.

Artist: Megan Smith
Project: Spectrum South Voices: A Podcast for the Queer South
Project Description: Spectrum South—a Houston-based online magazine focused on LGBTQ identity and culture in the South—will use The Idea Fund to launch a podcast series that will focus specifically on the voices of queer and transgender people of color (QTPOC). Guests will include QTPOC artists, activists, entrepreneurs, politicians, and more from Houston, Texas, and across the South. Megan Smith writes, “We are striving to be seen, recognized, acknowledged, and most importantly, heard. Spectrum South uplifts and centers the voices of our community, puts faces to these voices, and shares the stories of our brilliant and resilient siblings.” Episodes will be released bi-monthly on Spectrum South’s website (spectrumsouth.com), as well as on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, and other major audio platforms.

Spark ($1,000):

Artist: Laura Drey
Project: Unsettled Space-by way of…(working title)
Project Description: Drey’s work is about a state of migration — about movement, location, and identity. Through the support of The Idea Fund, Drey will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border with her mother and daughters to create a vignette of short stories and poetry that speak to the complexities of migration, focusing on the nuances of personal and cultural identities as they intersect with themes of geography and government, labor and movement, economics and culture.

Artist: Hannah Gourlay
Project: S.M.Art Girls project Houston Hydro-stencils
Project Description: The S.M.Art Girls is a group of all girl/femme-identified artists (and transgender-inclusive) creating art in Houston using Science and Math. The Idea Fund, S.M.Art Girls will create Houston Hydro-stencils a public art/guerilla-style project, by making a superhydrophobic polymer invisible paint and graffiti-style stencils with encouraging phrases like “Can’t drown HTOWN”. Using science and math, the Houston Hydro-stencils project aims to explore new ways of creating temporary public art that doesn’t damage urban surroundings and appears and disappears through elements of nature.

Artist: Regina Leslie
Project: Can I Get a Witness
Project Description: Can I Get a Witness is a documentary film project that questions narratives of disability in Afrofuturism. Over the next year, Leslie will use the support of The Idea Fund to develop a series of interviews that explore historical aspects of spirituality and the support offered to Black disabled body-minds.

Research & Development Grant ($1,000):

Artist: Reyes Ramirez
Latinx Art Writing Series
Project Description: The Latinx Art Writing Series seeks to bring more attention to the rich and vibrant Latinx art being created in Houston. Through a series of collaborations, the Latinx Art Writing Series will create writing pieces that respond to, analyze, and give new perspectives to Houston Latinx artists and their art. With support from The Idea Fund, Ramirez plans to provide a creative record of participating Latinx artists, writers, and organizers in conjunction with the Latino Art Now! 2019 National Conference, a program of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research and hosted by the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American Studies and the Smithsonian Latino Center (April 4 – 6, 2019).

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