Today, Project Row Houses (PRH) and the Center for Art and Social Engagement (CASE) at the University of Houston’s Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts announced the two artists selected to participate in the organizations’ 2019 fellowship program. Since 2017, when the fellowship was started with a $100,000 gift from Suzanne Deal Booth, the program has brought one local artist and one US-based artist into Houston’s Third Ward to develop collaborative projects that positively impact the community. The 2019 fellows, Texas-based Libby Bland and California-based Sarah Rafael García, will be mentored throughout their year-long fellowship by PRH’s Ryan N. Dennis, and CASE’s director, Sixto Wagan.
Also as part of the program, both 2019 fellows will receive a $15,000 stipend, $5,000 for projects and associated research, and access to additional “local artists, community members, and faculty to advise and ground [the] project in a local discourse.” Ms.García will additionally receive housing at PRH and $1,000 in travel support.
The fellowship’s past participants include Carrie Schneider (2017), Carol Zou (2017), Regina Agu (2018) and Eyakem Gulilat (2018). Ms. Bland and Ms. García will be introduced to the Houston community through artists talks this spring. They will also both lecture about their fellowship projects once the program has concluded. To learn more about the artists, including the kinds of projects they are each currently focusing on, see their bios below, via PRH.
Libby Bland is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she earned master’s degrees in architecture and city and regional planning. Her undergraduate degree is from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied narratives of place, children’s literature, and costuming. She was born and raised in Southeastern Virginia in the shadow of The Great Dismal Swamp. Her background is in oral history, arts-based community design, and the history of self-planned Black communities throughout the rural South. Previously she worked with The Community Futures Lab in Philadelphia, an oral history and arts project around gentrification in a neighborhood after public housing towers had been demolished. She also worked for the Village of Arts and Humanities, focusing on economic development and housing stability for long-time residents in North Philadelphia. She currently works full time at Texas Housers as a neighborhood and housing equity planner and analyst.
The through line of Libby’s work is trying to understand the narratives that Black people tell (and omit) about our experiences, and figuring out clear and compelling ways to connect us across the stories and lessons that have been lost to time and trauma.
Sarah Rafael García is a writer, traveler, and arts educator. She was born in Brownsville, Texas and raised in Santa Ana, California—she considers herself “a first-generation everything,” including being an artist. Since publishing Las Niñas (Floricanto Press 2008), she founded Barrio Writers, LibroMobile and Crear Studio. In 2015, she completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Fiction and cognate in Media Studies. She is an editor for the Barrio Writers, pariahs: writing from outside the margins and Latinx Archive anthologies. In 2016, Sarah Rafael was awarded to develop the multi-media project titled SanTana’s Fairy Tales (Raspa Magazine 2017), supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, through an Artist-in-Residence initiative at CSUF Grand Central Art Center. In 2018, she held an artist residency at The Guesthouse, Cork, Ireland and was honored as an Emerging Artist at the 19th Annual Orange County Arts Awards. In March 2019, she will exhibit her first installation as a conceptual artist: “A Book’s Journey,” a collaborative recycled book project.
As a writer and conceptual artist, Sarah Rafael offers historical counter-narratives for her gender and culture, while integrating contemporary social justice themes and creative narrative structures of people of color without the constraints imposed by society or traditional storytelling. For the KGMCA-PRH Fellowship, she is interested in expanding her ethnographic work by researching and incorporating Houston’s Third Ward history along with its social justice and gentrification issues and further develop a multi-media, literary-arts platform.