Arts & Culture

Young Urban Leaders Offer Insight On Houston’s Strengths And Weaknesses In National Conference

One topic of conversation focuses on art’s impact in the community.


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Next City Vanguard Conference
“Drawing in Communities” panelists, L-R: Tre Borden, Lovie Olivia, Debbie McNulty, Alice Mizrachi. Caroline Goeser (far right) was moderator.

The space within the freshly-painted white walls in the Silos on Sawyer is usually occupied with artists at work in their studios. But Wednesday night, it was filled with members of the area's creative community who came to discuss how art can be a force for change in neighborhoods.

It's part of the Next City Vanguard Conference, hosted by Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Over the course of the week, a number of panel discussions have been given on a variety of topics; this one is titled, Drawing in Communities.

"The panel is about how we can use art to engage communities," says Kyle Shelton, program manager at the Institute, “and think about questions about how we build cities and our neighborhoods in new ways through art."

Panelist Tre Borden is a Sacramento-based consultant for placemaking, a term used for bringing art to public spaces to reflect the personality of a neighborhood.

"It can be a mural, it can be a temporary street intervention that's a platform for community groups to perform and engage the public," Borden says. "It can be a housing project that integrates the creative class to help kick-start a district's reinvention."

Artists can often bring new life to an area that other avenues can't, explains Debbie McNulty, the City of Houston's Director of Cultural Affairs: "It can get people to think about it, feel it and internalize it in a different way, and be committed to then working on the change."

The conference's capstone event is Friday night with a Big Idea Challenge at Discovery Green. It'll involve exchanging ideas on how to improve five underutilized spaces in the Houston area.

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