2019 was like a mini renaissance period of black artists from Houston putting our city on the map. This significant new era saw Lizzo completely take over the world and Megan Thee Stallion topped the Billboards with the instant anthem, “Hot Girl Summer.” Solange wrote an entire album as a love letter to Houston and screened its companion film of the same name, When I Get Home at the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center in Third Ward. Houston owes much of its growing international acclaim to the black artists, makers, thinkers, performers, and writers who call it home. Even when Houstonians aren’t making international news, there are so many ways to celebrate black art and artists in Houston.
One of the coolest and most powerful ongoing projects our city has ever seen, Project Row Houses connects modern-day black art and artists to the physical land significant to Houston’s black history. Spanning five city blocks in one of Houston’s oldest historically black neighborhoods, Third Ward, volunteers in 1993 began renovating 22 derelict shotgun-style homes into a community that houses rotating art installations, direct action, and community resources that enrich and empower the black community. Not only are artists given individual houses for 6-month art installations, but 7 of the houses serve as transitional housing for young black mothers and their children. Project Row Houses is free and open to the public for tours Wednesday through Sunday, 12:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Nestled on University of Houston’s sprawling campus, Blaffer Art Museum houses student work as well as that of international artists of great acclaim. Currently on view until March 2020 are the works of Paul Mpagi Sepuya, an American photographer and artist who creates intimate portraiture through the lens of the queer, black gaze. A museum that is accurately representative of Houston’s diversity, Blaffer hosts artists as speakers and offers programming that is always free and open to the public.
In Houston’s famed Museum District, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston has expanded their Arts of Africa Collection in both 2010 and 2015. With works that span from 500 BC to the present day, the Arts of Africa Collection features sculptures, textiles, headdresses, and masks. There is also a separate collection amongst the Glassell Special Collections featuring African gold works that is considered to be the largest, most comprehensive collection of African gold in an American museum. The Menil Collection also features over 900 examples of African Art from ancient to modern day, and an entire room devoted to Egypt alone.
One of the most vital organizations promoting black art and artists is Community Artists’ Collective. Beyond their expansive exhibitions showcasing international and local black artists, the Collective also provides educational, enriching programming for youth and adults.
To catch black history in the making, it is absolutely necessary to patron The Ensemble Theatre, the largest African-American professional theatre company in the U.S. that produces in-house and owns its own facility. Founded in 1976 by George Hawkins, The Ensemble Theatre continues its founding legacy to provide diverse roles for black artists and empowering the community via artistic expression.