Little Galleries Pop Up in Houston’s Heights Neighborhood; Feature Karen Navarro, Matt Manalo & Others

by Jessica Fuentes December 29, 2021

Artists for Artists (A4A), a Houston-based nonprofit organization, has launched a tiny public art series called The Little Galleries Program. Founded in 2018 by Tra’ and Amber Slaughter, A4A’s mission is to raise funds for artists in need, specifically focusing on medical costs, emergency relief, and other personal crises. This focus meant that the organization was uniquely positioned to assist artists through the Covid-19 pandemic. While A4A will continue to help artists, their new initiative seeks to inspire creativity, increase accessibility to art, and build community through small-scale public art installations.

Amber Slaughter explained to PaperCity some of A4A’s thinking behind the project: “What a great place to engage the community and have free access to fine art where there wouldn’t be access otherwise. A lot of people are afraid to walk into a gallery. It’s perceived as being pretentious or very intimidating.” She also discussed the possible future of the program: “we’re looking at putting them throughout Houston, putting them in parks, also in the Houston Botanic Gardens, and even in the Texas Med Center. It’s good to get out and engage with public art and your community.”

Little Galleries was inspired by Open Field Collective’s Street Projects in Toronto. The project’s exhibition spaces are similar in appearance to the Little Free Libraries — small enclosed structures where the general public can donate or borrow books. A4A spent the spring prototyping structures for the project. Their first iteration made its debut earlier this fall as part of the Houston Women’s March. The current exhibition launched just a few weeks later, with three galleries located in Houston’s Heights neighborhood, and one gallery located in Midtown, near the bar Axelrad. 

The current exhibition features work by a diverse group of Houston-based artists: Karen Navarro, Peter Healy, Matt Manalo, and Margo Lunsford. 

A close-up photograph of a small-scale sculpture inside a little gallery on a stand, similar in size to a Free Little Library. The sculpture is made up of vertical strips some of which are bright pink and others depict fragments of a photograph of a person. The artwork is by Karen Navarro.

Detail photograph of Karen Navarro’s “Rearranged, LLL”, 2021. ©Morris Malakoff

Rearranged, LLL, 2021 by Karen Navarro
Location: Heights Central Station; Heights Boulevard & 11th Street, Houston, TX 77008

Karen Navarro, an Argentine-born photographer and multimedia artist, has exhibited widely around Houston. Earlier this year her solo exhibition The Constructed Self was on view at Foto Relevance, and in 2019 her show Karen Navarro: Belonging in Modern Times was on view at Gray Contemporary. She was also included in Slowed and Throwed: Records of the City Through Mutated Lenses, an exhibition organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, which also traveled to Artpace in San Antonio. 

A close-up photograph of a small-scale installation inside a little gallery on a stand, similar in size to a Free Little Library. The installation includes a small colorful abstract painting and five small sculptures of varying sizes using both organic and geometric forms and bright colors.. The artwork is by Peter Healy.

Detail photograph of Peter Healy’s “Untitled”, 2021.

Untitled, 2021 by Peter Healy
Location: Lululemon; 713 Heights Boulevard; Houston, TX 77008

Peter Healy is a painter, illustrator, and sculptor from Kinawley in Northern Ireland. He was included in The Big Show 2021 at the Lawndale Art Center, and was part of a two-person exhibition, Solitude In Bloom: New Works from Peter Healy and Matt Messinger, at the Hardy & Nance Street Studio Complex. 

A photograph of artist Matt Manalo standing next to his Little Gallery installation.

Artist Matt Manalo stands next to his Little Galleries installation, “When the Water Buffalo Sings,” 2021.

When the Water Buffalo Sings, 2021 by Matt Manalo
Location: Axelrad; 1517 Alabama Street; Houston, TX 77004

Matt Manalo is an artist and community organizer who was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. This year he was included in the Texas Biennial, A New Landscape/A Possible Horizon, at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, and In The Sun at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston. 

A photograph of a small-scale installation inside a little gallery on a stand, similar in size to a Free Little Library. The installation includes a small painting of an abstracted female figure looking into a mirror as well as small trees and small white figures standing in front of the painting. The artwork is by Margo Lunsford.

Detail photograph of Margo Lunsford’s “Before a Mirror”, 2021.

Before a Mirror, 2021 by Margo Lunsford
Location: The MendCenter; 519 Heights Boulevard; Houston, TX 77008

Margo Lunsford is a painter who studied at Glassell School of Art and Houston Baptist University. 

Artists interested in being considered for a Little Galleries exhibition are invited to apply to the A4A Artist Registry. Applications are accepted year-round and reviewed in batches, quarterly. 

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