100 Creatives 2013: James Glassman, Houstorian Historian and Artist
What He Does James Glassman is the founder of Houstorian, a website dedicated to "telling the story of Houston." Glassman also runs Houstorian's popular Twitter feed, where he tweets "this day in history" tidbits about the city.
Glassman said Houstorian started out in 2006 as group dedicated to educating Houstonians about their city, "but it had been brewing for about 15 years before that."
In 1990, Glassman read a story in the Houston Press about Stephen Fox, the "dean of Houston architectural history," as Glassman calls him. Fox had just released a book, the Houston Architectural Guide.
"That book changed everything for me," Glassman said. "It showed me that Houston was filled with all these great stories."
Photo by Julie Soefer
Fast forward to 2006.
"There was a lot of yelling about the River Oaks Theatre and what was going to happen. People didn't know what the developers were going to do," Glassman said. "I figured, the way to fix that was to get people involved ahead of those steps."
"Amnesia is a local cultural attribute," Glassman said. "What I want to do is cure that amnesia. But I don't want to be cynical. I never want to be cynical."
Articles on Houstorian mix humor with history. For example, the website includes an essay on Houston's dirtiest-sounding street names next to an article called "Defenders, Not Defensive" that gently pokes fun at all those "Keep Houston ______" campaigns.
Two years ago, Glassman started the Houstorian Twitter account, which now has more than 7,000 followers and in June won a Houston Press Web Award for Tweet of the Year. Any time he comes across an interesting tidbit about Houston or a notable Houstonian in a magazine article or book, he adds it to his Google calendar, which is his reference point for tweeting.
Why He Likes It Glassman has a history degree and a master's in architecture, and works as a project manager at an architecture firm.
"I love architecture and history, and educating people. I'm always excited to find someone who's excited about sharing things in a fun way," he said. "[Houstorian] touches all those things."
Glassman also likes not being beholden to any other organizations or being tied down by politics, something he learned from Bill Coats, the local lawyer who founded Trees for Houston and who died in 2010.
"Some of the preservation groups in Houston were too polite," he said. "He taught me, you don't have to go into politics to make a difference."
What Inspires Him "I'm a tinkerer and I get excited about people who are tinkerers and who do things themselves. I am always thinking about Houstorian, about ways to make things fun," he said.
In addition to Stephen Fox, Glassman also cites Houston architect and preservationist Barry Moore as an inspiration.
"Eventually getting to meet them was gratifying because they get it, and they know how to talk about it in a way that other people get it."
If Not This, Then What? "I would spend a lot more time as a visual artist," Glassman said. "The thing about being a tinkerer is that you do a lot of things, all the time, no matter what you're doing professionally. I never want to have one job.
"It wasn't until I was in (Lawndale Art Center's) The Big Show a few times that I felt comfortable calling myself a visual artist," he said. "I was an artistic kid, but out of respect to professional artists I didn't say that. Architecture school made me a better artist because it taught me about discipline."
To that end, Glassman recently launched a line of t-shirts inspired by Houston icons, some brick and mortar and some flesh and blood. Every Tuesday a new design comes out. Last week he launched the first of shirt designs showcasing Houston zip codes. All of his designs are available as posters and prints as well.
"This is a great way to tell the story of Houston visually," he said. "Having a T-shirt that just says 'Houston' on it isn't going to sell."
If Not Here, Then Where? "Six feet under," Glassman jokes.
He's a lifelong Houstonian save for a stint in Ohio, where he went to college.
"I got a great liberal arts education that I wouldn't trade for the world," he said. But he insists that even "New-stonians" are welcome in this town.
"In Houston, we don't care where you came from or how long you've been here. We're all about what you do once you get here."
What's Next? For now, Glassman is throwing almost all of his weight towards preserving the Astrodome. In May he was interviewed by the New York Times on the importance of the 'Dome to Houston's identity.
"I am all about finding ways to get people excited about this badass city," he said. "I want to re-introduce Houston to Houstonians. We can show the world that we do value our history."
More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Lou Vest, photographer Sara Gaston, stage and screen star Rachael Pavlik, a writer mom Ana Villaronga-Roman, Katy Contemporary Arts Museum director Erin Wasmund, actor, singer and dancer Karim Al-Zand, composer Jan Burandt, paper conservator for The Menil Collection Deke Anderson, actor Craig Cohen, hockey fan and host of Houston Matters Mauro Luna, Poe-Inspired photographer Trond Saeverud, Galveston Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Khrystyna Balushka, paper flower child Christina Carfora, visual artist and world traveler Sara Kumar, artistic director for Shunya Theatre Kiki Maroon, burlesque clown Gin Martini, fashion designer Lacey Crawford, painter and sculptor Homer Starkey, novelist Jenn Fox, mixed media Shohei Iwahama, dancer Erica DelGardo, metalsmith Bob Clark, executive director Houston Family Arts Center Kerrelyn Sparks, bestselling romance author Lindsay Halpin, punk rock mad hatter Drake Simpson, actor Shelby Carter, Playboy model turned photographer David Matranga, actor Crystal Belcher, pole dancer Daniel Kramer, photographer Blue 130, pin-up explosion art Nina Godiwalla, author and TED speaker David Wilhem, light painter Tom Abrahams, author and newscaster Browncoat, pin-up pop artist Kris Becker, Nu-Classical composer and pianist Vincent Fink, science fashion Stephanie Saint Sanchez, Senorita Cinema founder Ned Gayle, thrift store painting defacer Sameera Faridi, fashion designer Greg Ruhe, The Human Puppet Sophia L. Torres, founder and co-artistic director of Psophonia Dance Company Maggie Lasher, dance professor and artistic director Jordan Jaffe, founder of Black Lab Theatre Outspoken Bean, performance poet Barry Moore, architect Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist Ty Doran, young actor Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet Justin Garcia, artist Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer Danielle Burns, art curator Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana MarÃa Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer
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