Art League Houston Announces 2023 Artist, Patron, and Lifetime Achievement Awards

by Jessica Fuentes April 10, 2023

Art League Houston (ALH) has announced the recipients of its annual Texas Artist of the Year and Texas Patron of the Year awards, as well as its biennial Lifetime Achievement Award in Arts Leadership.

In a press release ALH director Jennie Ash stated, “ALH has a long history of supporting visionary artists and ground-breaking artistic leaders in our state. As we celebrate ALH’s 75th anniversary, we are proud to honor the incredible Texas painter Vincent Valdez; internationally known photographer, curator, writer, and FotoFest co-founder Wendy Watriss; as well as beloved long-time arts advocate and philanthropic leader, Cecily E. Horton. All three honorees exemplify the highest level of artist vision, leadership, and advocacy within the Texas region, and stand apart as leading figures and visionary talents.”

A photograph of painter Vincent Valdez sitting in front of a painted canvas.

Vincent Valdez. Image courtesy of the artist.

Born in San Antonio, Houston-based artist Vincent Valdez began painting murals with his mentor, the artist Alex Rubio, at the age of ten. He received his BFA (2000) from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he was awarded a full scholarship. In 2004, he became the youngest artist to be granted a solo exhibition at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. Over the years he has earned an array of awards and recognitions, including the Mellon Foundation’s Latinx Artist Grant (2022), an Artadia Artist Grant (2019), and The Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painters and Sculptors (2016). Last year, his work was included in the Outwin Portrait Competition at the National Portrait Gallery. As the recipient of the ALH 2023 Texas Artist of Year award, Mr. Valdez will present an exhibition at ALH this fall.

Vivian Li, the Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art and one of the 2023 award selection committee members, commented, “Vincent Valdez is one of the most recognizable artists in the state, who continuously uses his work to activate audiences to think more critically and deeply. His insistence to understand our collective history — and all its ghoulish pathos and beauty — seeks to replace it with humanity and dignity.”

A photograph of Wendy Watriss.

Wendy Watriss. Photo by Casey Dunn.

Wendy Watriss, co-founder of FotoFest, the Houston-based arts organization that hosts a biennial event, was born in San Francisco and grew up in Greece, Spain, France, and the U.S. She graduated from New York University, where she studied English and Philosophy. In the mid-1960s, Mrs. Watriss began her career as a journalist and political writer. In her early career she worked for the St. Petersburg Times and the Public Broadcast Laboratory in New York. Later she worked as a freelance writer and photographer for Newsweek, the New York Times, and international magazines. In the early 1970s, Mrs. Watriss and her husband and creative collaborator Fredrick Baldwin traveled across the U.S. documenting American culture and politics. In the 1980s and 1990s, she worked as a freelance photographer in Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, West Africa, and the southern and southwestern U.S. Mrs. Watriss taught oral history and photograph at the University of Texas at Austin, has served on numerous national and international photography panels and juries, and has received several photography grants from organizations like the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts/Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Texas Committee for the Humanities.

The art historian Dr. Alvia J. Wardlaw, who is the director and curator at the Texas Southern University Museum and was name ALH’s 2021 Lifetime Achievement Awardee, served on the committee selecting Mrs. Watriss. She commented: “In a city where the arts are supported by a strong group of patrons, professionals, and dedicated volunteers, Wendy Watriss remains at the forefront of all efforts to create a unique profile for the city of Houston as a place that truly celebrates our creative communities. Her creation of and continuous development of FotoFest has made Houston a place of special support for those throughout the world for whom photography is a passion and a calling.”

A headshot of Cecily E. Horton.

Cecily E. Horton. Image courtesy of C. Horton.

Cecily E. Horton is an arts professional and philanthropist who has impacted the Texas arts community for 35 years. She holds a BA in Art History from Wellesley College and a Masters of Philosophy in the History of Art from Yale University. She began her career at Hiram Butler Gallery and currently serves as a partner and Director of MKG Art Management in Houston. She serves on the board of the Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Glassell School of Art. Previously, she served for over a decade as a trustee at Artadia and at the Lawndale Art Center. 

Kerry Inman, founder and director of Inman Gallery and 2023 award selection committee member noted, “For the past 30+ years, Cecily E. Horton has been a devoted supporter of artists and organizations in Houston; she has been generous with her time, intellect, and funds. Honestly, it is hard to imagine our ecosystem without her. She prefers to be ‘behind the scenes,’ but it is time for her to step up and take a bow!”

The 2023 awardees were selected by committees of artists and arts professionals. The Texas Artist of Year panel included Christopher Blay, writer and Chief Curator at the Houston Museum of African American Culture in Houston; Letitia Huckaby, 2022 Texas Artist of the Year; Vivian Li, the Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art; and Anna Walker, Executive Director of the Lawndale Art Center. The selection committee for the 2023 LIfetime Achievement Award in Arts Leadership was composed of Jon Evans, Chief of LIbraries and Archives at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Camilo Gonzalez, Education and Technical Director at Aurora Picture Show; Earlie Hudnall, Jr., artist and 2022 Lifetime Achievement Awardee; Betty Moody, founder and director of the Moody Gallery; and Dr. Alvia J. Wardlaw, art historian, director, and curator at Texas Southern University Museum. The 2023 Texas Patron of the Year awardee was selected by John Bradshaw, a nonprofit consultant based in Houston; Kerry Inman, founder and director of Inman Gallery; and Seba Raquel Suber, Deputy Director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Learn more about the ALH 2023 awardees and upcoming programming at the ALH website.

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