The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs has announced three public art commissions that will be displayed in the landmark Alief Neighborhood Center scheduled to open in the spring of 2022. Two interior and a single exterior commissioned public artworks will debut with the facility opening and will be added to the city’s Civic Art Collection. Each was created by Houston-area artists Bennie Flores Ansell, Falon Mihalic, and the Red Thread Collective – Rakhee Jain Desai, Ami Mehta, and Sneha Bhavsar.
The new $54-million mixed-used center will accommodate three City of Houston facilities under one roof, creating a civic center at the heart of a redeveloped 38-acre active urban sports park. A new paradigm for providing City services, the 70,000-square foot, three-story LEED-certified award-winning building is the first of its kind, designed to leverage resources between the Houston Health, Houston Parks and Recreation, and Houston Public Library departments for the benefit of the Alief Complete Community with special focus on community engagement, identity, and civic wellbeing. In the event of natural disasters and emergencies, this facility will also serve as resilience hub or lily pad.
"Each of the local artists selected to create artworks for this state-of-the-art facility highlight the strength of Houston’s creative community,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "The three commissioned public artworks that will be displayed at the Alief Neighborhood Center will not only enhance the Alief Complete Community but will also inspire its residents and make the entire city proud.”
MOCA released the opportunity to artists residing in the Greater Houston Area and, with input from District F Council Member Tiffany Thomas, oversaw a selection process which emphasized community representation. A selection panel of City department, community, and art world representatives was assembled to review nine finalists proposals. Panelists included Xandra Eden, executive director of Diverseworks; Alief artist Gordon Greenleaf; artist and arts educator, Divya Murthys; John Middleton, assistant director of the Houston Public Library; and Lisa Johnson, General Services Department division manager.
Each of the three commissioned artworks — Folding Stories (Red Thread Collective), Alief Swarm (Bennie Flores Ansell), and Windbloom (Falon Mihalic) — will engage the Alief community to participate in the completion of commission designs ahead of fabrication.
Folding Stories, a suspended sculpture, welcomes visitors to the Center while celebrating the strength of diversity in Alief and will seek writing samples from Alief ISD students and civic groups. Alief Swarm also seeks direct connection with residents and will feature 1,000 shoe-inspired butterflies created from photographs of shoes captured by the artist. Embedded in the urban parkscape, Windbloom will give form to the site’s ephemeral ecological qualities and fortify the new neighborhood center as a place for reflection, connection, and discovery.
Each public art commission is planned for completion in spring 2022.