“True North” Celebrates Ten Years Along Heights Boulevard

by Caleb Bell February 6, 2023
Public sculpture of a paper airplane made of aluminum

Ed Wilson “Folded Plane,” 2014. Photo by Gary Griffin.

Situated along the scenic esplanade of Houston’s Heights Boulevard, True North, an annual outdoor sculpture installation initiated in 2014, will celebrate their tenth iteration with a special anniversary exhibition this year. Slated to run March through December, the exhibition will feature new sculptures by eight artists included in previous installations.

This year’s show will feature the artwork of Joe Barrington, Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw, Dan Havel, Paul Kittelson, Sharon Kopriva, Patrick Medrano, Dean Ruck, and Ed Wilson. With the exception of Barrington, who lives in Albany, all of the artists currently live and work in the Greater Houston area. To date, True North has showcased the work of 74 Texas artists, having never shown the same artist twice until now.

“Over the past ten years now, the True North project has done exemplary work to foster creative activity in the public realm and shown to be a model of temporary public art in the region,” said Ruck, a featured artist and True North team member. “Bringing art to the whole public is essential to enliven our community.”

Public Sculpture of a mosaic wall

Marsha Dorsey, “Outlaw Obstacle Art Path,” 2018.

True North has showcased a diverse selection of works over the years, including whimsical larger-than-life works such as Kittelson’s Lawn Chairs (2014) and Bill Davenport’s Big Cabbage (2020). Some, like Jack Massing’s LOCULUS (2020), have incorporated kinetic elements. Michelle O’Michael’s Moon Tree (2019), Carey Reeder’s Treeodesic Dome (2021), and several others have utilized solar-powered lighting.

Included among the anticipated works in this year’s exhibition, Dorsey-Outlaw’s installation, which is set to greet visitors as the first work encountered on the boulevard, will feature a series of mosaic pieces reminiscent of street posts. In the 800 block, Wilson’s Cyclone is the result of coiling a 700 foot strip of metal around itself. Further up the road in the 1300 block, Kopriva’s Snakes and Ladders draws inspiration from the ancient children’s game from India, which later became Chutes and Ladders in the United States.

Public sculpture of giant lawn chairs

Paul Kittelson “Lawn Chairs,” 2014. Photo by Gary Griffin.

Unique to this year’s presentation will be a virtual tour experience. Told through the artists’ own voices, the program, accessed through QR codes located near each sculpture, will provide details about each artwork and the artist’s background.

True North is organized by an all-volunteer team and entirely funded through private donations. The project is presented in collaboration with the Houston Heights Association along with the City of Houston Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments and the Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Collaged photo of 8 artists participating in True North 2023

The True North 2023 artist announcement.

“Our mission is to make fine art more accessible to those who may not otherwise seek out or have access to a museum or gallery,” says True North team member Kelly Simmons. “True North wishes to start a dialog, create a sense of wonder, and plant a seed that leads to a lifetime filled with the pursuit of art.”



Note: An essay about a past True North iteration, entitled “True North: How Heights Boulevard’s Sculpture Installation Saved Me in 2020,” was the winning piece of Glasstire’s 2021 Greater Houston Art Writing Prize.

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