Now in its third year, Project Row Houses has been putting on the Southwestern Bell African-American Arts Festival in an attempt to show there is more to African-American culture than what you hear on black radio and what you see on UPN.
"There's so much richness in African-American culture that I don't think is celebrated," says Andrew Malveaux II, festival organizer and administrative director of Project Row Houses. "I mean, I think people listen to African-American music every day and [don't] really realize that this is a musical form that we invented. We're talking about R&B. We're talking about blues. We're talking about jazz. We're talking about hip-hop. On top of that, if you wanna get into visual arts, there are lots of aspects of visual arts that African-Americans and members of the African diaspora invented that we as African-Americans don't celebrate."
To that end, Project Row Houses is opening the fall round of its Artists' Installations program this weekend too. The organization commissions artists from all over the world -- New York, Paris, Denmark, London -- to put their work inside the site's eight houses.
As for the musical performers, the gamut runs from reggae (D.R.U.M.) to big band (Conrad Johnson) to jazz (Sebastian Whittaker) to down-home blues (Grady Gaines). "We think we've got a nice mix of people you've heard of and people you haven't heard of," says Malveaux. "But everybody who is performing this year is top-notch musical entertainment."
Malveaux promises that proceeds -- "not some, not half, but all of it" -- from the projected 25,000-member crowd will benefit African-American cultural arts organizations in Houston, including Project Row Houses, the Ensemble Theatre and S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, organizations that further the festival's mission year-round. The Southwestern Bell African-American Arts Festival takes place on Saturday, October 16, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, October 17, from noon to 8 p.m. at Project Row Houses, 2500 Holman. $3; free for kids under 12. For more information, call (713)526-7662.