The 2021 Greater Houston Writing Prize is supported in part by The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation. For a full list of supporters, please see below.
Justin Jannise is the recipient of the 2021 Glasstire Greater Houston Art Writing Prize. In his winning essay, titled True North: How Heights Boulevard’s Sculpture Installation Saved Me in 2020, Jannise writes about how, during this pandemic, an outdoor exhibition of sculptures in his neighborhood inspired him to leave his place each day for a walk while considering the things art can and cannot say for itself. The $2,500 prize includes the winning essay being published on Glasstire, and a virtual celebration in Jannise’s honor later this week.
Jannise writes to Glasstire about why he responded to the open call: “I am beyond grateful that my essay on the Heights Boulevard esplanade won the Greater Houston Glasstire Writing Prize! It goes without saying that this past year has been challenging for literally everyone. For me, dealing with isolation – particularly from public places and events centered around shared experiences of art – has been no small task. Now more than ever, we need accessible outdoor art and the community such art provides. We need critical art writing that brings us fresh ideas. And we need to keep our writers and artists financially afloat. In a word, we need Glasstire.”
As announced in October of last year, the 2021 Greater Houston Glasstire Art Writing Prize is a competitive award designed to find and highlight emerging arts writers in Texas. This is the fourth year of the Prize; in 2020 we focused on the San Antonio region, with an extended deadline due to Covid-19, and in previous years we focused on the North Texas region, as we will again this season. This is the first year of the Prize for the Houston region.
Justin Jannise grew up in rural southeast Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Now pursuing his Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston, Jannise served as Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts from 2018 to 2020. He is a recent recipient of both the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize and the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry. Jannise’s first poetry collection, How to Be Better by Being Worse, won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions in April 2021. (You may pre-order Jannise’s book here.)
Judges for this round of the Prize included Molly Glentzer, former Senior Writer and Critic, Arts & Culture for the Houston Chronicle; Gabriel Martinez, artist and Director of Alabama Song; Brandon Zech, Publisher of Glasstire; Christina Rees, Editor-in-Chief of Glasstire; and Christopher Blay, News Editor of Glasstire.
Thank you to our supporters of the 2021 Greater Houston Prize:
The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation
The Brown Foundation, Inc.
Foltz Fine Art
Cece & Mack Fowler
Melanie Gray & Mark Wawro
Poppi Georges Massey
Allison & David Ayers
John Bradshaw Jr.
Leslie & Brad Bucher
Penelope Gonzalez & Lester Marks
Aimee & Daniel Heimbinder
Leslie & Mark Hull
Sissy & Denny Kempner
Kinzelman Art Consulting
Harry L. Bowles
Stephen Caffey, PhD
Emily Chambers & Brandon Zech
Susie & Sanford Criner
Sharon Engelstein & Aaron Parazette
Marita & J.B. Fairbanks
Lynn Goode & Harrison Williams
Gspot Contemporary Art Space
Kerry F Inman
Daniela & Rex Koontz
Sharon & Gus Kopriva
Laura Rathe Fine Art
Linda & William Reaves
Additional Supporters Include:
Virginia & William Camfield, Dinah Chetrit & Rich Levy, Jane & Gus Eifler, Judy & Clifford Fry, Natilee Harren, Terrell James & Cameron Armstrong, Patricia Covo Johnson, Lindsay Kayser & Pete Gershon, Susana Monteverde, Virginia Reynolds, Cyvia Wolff, Katherine & Mark Yzaguirre
About The Glasstire Art Writing Prize
The Glasstire Art Writing Prize is awarded to a senior undergraduate or graduate student at a Texas university. For this open call, students from art history, journalism, studio arts, philosophy, literature, and other departments at participating universities in the Greater Houston area were invited to submit articles with a word count between 750 and 1200 words about a work of art that they love, and why, or, due to the pandemic, about how art has sustained them over the last year.
The 2020 San Antonio Art Writing Prize winner was Christina Frasier, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Anthropology Department, where she studies cultural sustainability in the face of gentrification. Her winning essay was titled Resistance In Place: Christopher Montoya’s Mural of Cesar Chavez, San Antonio, about an exceptional mural’s location and restoration in a San Antonio neighborhood that’s experiencing the forces of gentrification.
Here’s an excerpt:
Murals like Montoya’s make manifest a political act the Bay Area artist Jenny Odell calls “resistance-in-place.” In her 2019 book How to Do Nothing, she suggests placing a greater value on “non-scripted spaces” — and I would count South Flores Street as one of these unscripted spaces, where the story of the place is being written and rewritten all the time by the City of San Antonio, commercial forces, and the residents of the place itself.
The 2019 North Texas Art Writing Prize winner was Mathieu Debic, a Ph.D. student at UT Dallas, who wrote about David Lynch’s 1984 film Dune.
Here’s an excerpt from his submission, titled Working at the Movies:
“That Dune was a failed experiment has, in a sense, become part of its point. In order for watching movies to not feel like work, there has to exist the possibility of movies like Dune. Without taking the major risks that can lead to a complete flop, both aesthetically and financially, movies (and their makers) nowadays gravitate toward the “easy A” — a compromised product that no one truly loves, but gives no one any reason to complain. This is the compromise that makes movies boring, and like work.”
The 2018 North Texas Art Writing Prize winner was Melanie Shi, a student of Philosophy at the University of North Texas in Denton, who wrote about The Color Inside, a skyspace artwork by American artist James Turrell.
On the importance of arts writing, Christina Rees wrote for the inaugural Prize’s announcement, in her op-ed Why We Need Art Writers Now (More Than Ever):
“The Glasstire Art Writing Prize… can encourage and cultivate the voices who are interested in engaging with the vast amount of visual art that this state churns out. Artists not only deserve honest critical writing about their work. They want it. The best artists, especially, want it. And the glossy lifestyle magazines and ‘curated’ Insta-sites that only embrace the forced glamor and fluff around visual art aren’t giving them (or art fans) this, or starting any meaningful conversation around art and what it can actually do in our culture. Given our current political moment, this problem of lack of real dialogue is especially galling.”