Houston Center for Contemporary Craft to Host Art Handling Olympics

by Jessica Fuentes February 29, 2024

The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) has announced that it will host the first-ever Texas Art Handling Olympics on March 7, 2024.

A side-by-side image of a designed graphic featuring broken glasses and text that reads "Art Handler" and a photograph of a wall of mounted tape measures.

Art Handling Olympics. (left) Clynton Lowry, “Art Handler Magazine, Cover of Issue 2,” 2016. Courtesy of Clynton Lowry. (right) Willem De Haan, “Curtain (Yellow),” 2022. Photo by Willem De Haan.

HCCC will host a modified version of the original Art Handling Olympics held in New York City in 2010. The New York Times called the event “a combination roast, ‘Jackass’-style stunt extravaganza.” Learn more about the challenges below, via descriptions provided by HCCC.

HCCC notes that following the art handling challenges, a panel of judges will award gold, silver, and bronze medals during a closing ceremony. The judges are Bradley Brown, Gallery Curator at San Jacinto College; Jeremy Johnson, Operations & Exhibitions Manager at Lawndale Art Center; Hesse McGraw, Executive Director at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Iva Kinnaird, HCCC Facilities Manager; and Sarah Darro, HCCC Curator + Exhibitions Director.

Ms. Darro told Glasstire, “The inaugural Texas Art Handling Olympics, like the exhibition it is being held in conjunction with, THIS SIDE UP, is centered on celebrating and bringing visibility to the masterful craftsmanship, technical acuity, and material intelligence involved in art handling. Though art handlers are often unseen, and their labor and creative production anonymized, they represent a fiercely talented and vital group of makers who allow the art world as we know it to function.”

She continued, “This event pays homage to the namesake 2010 competition, which was organized by Shane Caffrey in New York City and has since risen to mythological status, and is dedicated to making (riotous) space for art handlers in one of the most vibrant arts ecosystems in the country.”

Currently 20 participants have registered for the event, including art handlers who contract with local organizations such as Art League Houston, Asia Society Texas, the Blaffer Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, FotoFest, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, Project Row Houses, rootlab, and San Jacinto College Gallery. HCCC also mentioned that a few competitors will be coming from outside of Texas.

Interested participants can register for the event here, though they must do so no later than Thursday, February 29. The Art Handling Olympics will take place at HCCC (4848 Main Street) on Thursday, March 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. While there are not currently plans for this to be an annual event, an HCCC spokesperson said “that could change” in the future.

Art Handling Challenge Descriptions

PORCELAIN PACKING CHALLENGE: Competitors will create boxes for ceramic objects from a pile of packing material scraps: cardboard, bubble and pearl wrap, foam, packing paper, etc. These boxes will then be launched from HCCC’s roof and scored based on packing aesthetics and breakage upon landing.

GALLON CHALLENGE: Competitors will be asked to lift a bucket of paint and guess how many gallons are inside and the square footage it could cover with two coats of paint. Scoring based on accuracy and closeness of the estimates.

CENTER ON 60”: Competitors will receive a 2-D work and must hang it as close to centered on 60 inches as possible WITHOUT a level or measuring tape. Scoring based on accuracy.

SPEED WEEDING: Competitors will receive a section of vinyl lettering, transfer tape, an X-acto, and a squeegee. They will weed the vinyl and place it on the wall. Scoring based on speed, accuracy, and letter loss.

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