Applications Accepted Aug. 15 to Sept. 15

by Dorothy Puch Lillig

The newly remodeled Zócalo Apartments in the Spring Branch District feature two full-building-scale murals by Houston artist, Anat Ronen. The colorful parrots and hummingbird pop against otherwise plain brick walls. The murals are stunning, but the apartment complex owners aren’t stopping there. Starting this month, other artists will be able to apply to become “artists-in-residence” at the 10-acre Spring Branch campus and share their art with Zócalo residents and the entire Spring Branch community.

The Artist-in-Residence program will provide no-cost housing and exhibition space for emerging and established Texas-based visual artists selected by an expert panel of local curators and artists. A one-year and two six-month residencies will be offered each year. The three selected artists will have the opportunity to do art shows at Zócalo Apartments and the freedom to create site-specific installations designed to engage with Zócalo’s residents and the greater Houston arts community.

Many in the Spring Branch District may know the property as Hammerly Walk Apartments, but 8787 Hammerly is now “Zócalo,” which means “town square.”

A $10 million renovation at the campus includes a highly colorful exterior with resort-like amenities and lush landscaping and a large water feature at the center of the property. In addition to new interiors and other amenities, Zócalo also features a new clubhouse and, of course, the art program.

The Houston Chronicle recently wrote about the trend of art being used by apartment developers, saying the Zócalo renovation “has the potential to inspire profound change” with one of the nation’s first commercial artist-in-residence programs.

Not everyone wants to make art, “but everybody loves a more vibrant, lively environment,” the Houston Chronicle quoted Sophia Collier, one of the Zócalo investors. “And that’s something artists bring.”

Ileana Yordan, program director for the Zócalo Artist-in-Residency, said applications from visual artists will be taken August 15 through September 15 at Artist.ZocaloLiving.com.

Photos by Anat Ronen

Painters, muralists, installation artists, sculptors, graphic designers, mixed media artists, and other types of artists are encouraged to apply.

“We are seeking artists with strong creative and artistic voices who are interested in expressing or developing a community conscious artistic practice,” Yordan said.

Artist applications will be reviewed by an expert panel of judges, who will select five semi-finalists. This year’s expert panel includes five Houston-based curators, artists, and arts professionals representing a diverse range of expertise and leadership within the local arts industry: Jennie Ash, the executive director at Art League Houston; Lindsay Davis, art consultant at Davis Cohen Art / Texas representative at Bonhams; Robert L. Hodge, Houston interdisciplinary artist/ curator; GONZO247, graffiti artist and founder of Aerosol Warfare; and Dennis Nance, curator at the Galveston Arts Center.

“Our judges are truly an all-star panel and we expect over 100 artists throughout the region will be applying for the Zócalo residencies for a chance to get their names and work in front of these influential leaders,” Yordan said.

Once the five semi-finalists are chosen, the public will vote online to choose the three finalists. The winners will be announced and celebrated at a launch party on Nov. 16. The public event will be a group exhibition on the Zócalo campus, featuring works by all five semi-finalists.

Zócalo apartments will grant the three selected artist-residents with housing and exhibition space at no cost. Starting January 2020, the artist-residents will reside in a fully furnished apartment with basic necessities for the duration of the residency. Additionally, artists will be granted a monthly materials stipend to support the development of their work.

“I remember when I was entering the art scene in hopes of becoming a successful artist.  It would have meant the world to me to have these types of unique opportunities and support here in Houston at the time. I know it will mean the world to an artist today just as much,” said GONZO247, a graffiti artist and member of the judging panel for the residency program.

Yordan said the program doesn’t just benefit the artists and residents of Zócalo. The public will be able to enjoy art shows and events on campus, she said, and artworks at the events will be available for purchase at the artist’s discretion. “No commissions or works made throughout the residency program will be owed to or owned by Zócalo, unless we decide to purchase any works for our permanent collection,” Yordan said.

Former gallery manager at Houston’s Catherine Couturier Gallery, Yordan holds a Masters in Arts Leadership from the University of Houston. As a partner and creative director at the Olaju Art Group, she previously managed and curated exhibitions and educational programs focused on introducing contemporary West African Art to Texas.

“As program director for this initiative, this is the first time I will be responsible for developing a program of this scale and importance to the arts ecosystem in Houston,” Yordan said. “It is my personal goal and mission to ensure that this program is a positive and impactful opportunity for the artists’ careers, while being a meaningful and fun program for the local community to enjoy.”

Zócalo’s campus already has a strong artistic heritage. It is the very location in Spring Branch where world-famous artist and MacArthur Genius award recipient, Rick Lowe, had his start when he first moved to Houston in the mid-80’s.

“The Zócalo campus is in a magic area of Houston where one of our most iconic arts leaders had his beginnings, and it will continue to be an area where artists will have the opportunity to develop and thrive,” Yordan said.

For more information on the Zócalo Artist-in-Residency Program, visit https://artist.zocaloliving.com.