A New Independent Bookstore and Art Gallery Comes to Houston’s Montrose Neighborhood

by Jessica Fuentes July 1, 2022

Basket Books & Art, a new independent bookstore and art gallery, opened quietly at the end of May in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood.

Laura Hughes and Edwin Smalling sit in front of Basket Books & Art.

Laura Hughes and Edwin Smalling in front of Basket Books & Art.

Couple and business partners, Laura Hughes and Edwin Smalling are the owners of Basket, and the space is truly a marriage of their shared interests. Ms. Hughes, a writer and scholar of French literature and theory who holds a Ph.D. in French from New York University, grew up in Houston and recently moved back after living elsewhere for many years. Mr. Smalling, who holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University, is a practicing artist.

Basket Books & Art is named after Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas’ poodle, who according to Ms. Hughes and Mr. Smalling, “lived immersed in the art and intellectual avant-garde of their day.” The reference speaks to the couple’s goals for the space. They recently told Glasstire: “Our goal is to offer a unique context in which art and books can co-mingle in exciting ways, opening up alleyways of conversation. We aim to provide a space for creative and intellectual exchange through our inventory and programming, and to offer Houston’s diverse arts and intellectual communities something for the mind, a portal to the world of art, writing, and thought writ large.”

A photograph of the interior of Basket Books & Art. The photograph shows a tabletop covered with books in the middle of the room and a mix of tall and short bookshelves lining the walls.

Interior of Basket Books & Art.

A table top with an assortment of ceramic works by Jessica Ninci, on view at Basket Books & Art.

Ceramic works by Jessica Ninci, on view at Basket Books & Art in Houston.

The first floor of the building is mostly focused on books, though some walls and tabletops display smaller works. The second floor, which is approximately 700-square-feet, is dedicated exhibition space. Ms. Hughes and Mr. Smalling have said that their intention is to showcase both local and global artists with a curatorial focus on fostering a dialogue between the visual and literary arts. They plan to present five to six exhibitions per year, each lasting about two months.

An installation image showing three works of art in a small gallery.

“HOLLOWS,” featuring work by Brandon Araujo and Ben Peterson at Basket Books & Art.

The inaugural exhibition, HOLLOWS, features work by Brandon Araujo and Ben Peterson and draws on the word “hollow” both as a verb and a noun. A large-scale fresco by Mr. Peterson divides the space, creating a hollow. Other works in the exhibition incorporate depictions of empty space. The exhibition opened May 28 and will run through July.

Basket Books & Art is located at 115 Hyde Park Blvd, Houston, TX 77006.

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