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SPA Seeks To Elevate Houston Artists With Commissioning Project Series

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Say girl say

Photo: Pam Ashley Photography

The Society for the Performing Arts prides itself on having attracted internationally renowned artists to Houston for over 50 years with programming that explores the rich landscape of artistic expression. Now, for the first time, the largest non-profit presenter of its kind in the Southwest is focusing on creative sparkle closer to home.

In the summer of 2020, as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the city’s vibrant arts scene, the SPA launched the Houston Artist Commissioning Project to support local artists, providing them with the resources to bring new visions to life. . After successfully releasing nine virtual premieres to date, the organization is entering the second phase of its initiative, which will include live performances of six larger-scale commissions that will debut at Jones Hall over two weekends this year. fall.

“We have an extraordinarily strong cultural fabric here in Houston, but the path to being featured on the main stages was nearly impossible for many artists,” said SPA CEO Meg Booth. “We believe we are windows to the world and a mirror of our own community, and the Houston Artist Commissioning Project really gives us the opportunity to represent the cultural diversity and talent that we have living and working in the city.”

The first show, which runs October 15-16, will feature three world premieres – a personal response to recent social turmoil from spoken word veteran and social activist Patrick “PJ” Davis; a work that pushes the boundaries of Loop38 with the Houston Contemporary Dance Company; and a dynamic sound and visual experience by Say Girl Say. As some of the city’s brightest creative voices, these award winners – along with the three other award winners featured in next month’s program – were hand-picked from over 60 nominees and will appear in a roundtable on stage immediately. after each opening concert.

The latter – an indie-pop duo of Brigette Yawn and Suad Ihsan, whose friendship was sparked by a mutual affection for the ukulele – will present “Becoming” in collaboration with Two Star Symphony and the creative multimedia lab Input Output. The production, with projections on a suspended screen, will tell a story of growth through four original songs from the group’s new album, “Let My Hair Down”. Women have incorporated more electronic music into their sound in recent years, but this style was dropped for this performance. In a homecoming, they will be supported by an instrumental ensemble of six, as they take the audience on a journey of discovery of the most authentic version of oneself.

While discussing their strategic plan to move forward during the pandemic, the SPA team reflected on the systemic barriers that prevent underrepresented groups from accessing the arts and receiving support. As a result of this conversation and to better represent the city’s diverse population, the organization decided to focus on members of marginalized communities for these performance commissions.

Houston Artist Commissioning Project Live Part 1

When: 15-16 Oct at 7:30 p.m.

Or: Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St.

Details: $ 25; spahouston.org

Keeping the project in line with SPA’s mission as a multidisciplinary presenter, the team also approached the selection process with the intention of showcasing a variety of art forms. “Body and Spirit (Corpórea y Espíritu)”, for example, features 10 musicians from the new music ensemble, Loop38, alongside four dancers from the Houston Contemporary Dance Company. Inspired by the music of Latin Grammy-nominated composer Gabriela Ortiz, the four-movement work celebrates the creative bonds that have formed amidst social isolation while honoring the divisions that society has struggled to overcome. By exploring these seemingly opposing forces in different contexts, artists show how much they can actually relate to each other.

“Houston, artistically, is a powerful city that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for the art that is created here,” said Booth, who hopes to co-create the future of this project with the recipients and in make an annual opportunity for the local arts community. “We are really proud to support the artists in our own backyard and to see new work. “

The second program, on November 12 and 13, will feature three more world premieres by the winners of the remaining live performances – Riyaaz Qawwali, a musical ensemble that represents the qawwali genre; Harrison Guy, artistic director of Urban Souls Dance Company; and Deborah DEEP Mouton, former Houston poet laureate.

Lawrence Elizabeth Knox is a Houston-based writer.





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