This month the Houston Press will celebrate its eighth year of handing out MasterMind Awards, designed to go to three individuals or groups who are contributing a lot to the Houston area's artistic landscape. It is awarded to groups or individuals doing great things now, folks who could use a little financial bump — a $2,000 check — as well as the added recognition the awards bring. As we come up on our MasterMind Awards 2016, we take a minute to update you about last year's winners. Next up, artist Patrick Renner.
Just about everything in Renner’s life has changed since he was named one of our MasterMind winners for 2015, including new projects and collaborations, a job change and getting engaged to local filmmaker and photographer Emily Peacock.
Momentum was already building for this Houston-based sculptor even before receiving the award: his temporary civic art sculpture along the Montrose Boulevard esplanade, the Funnel Tunnel, received national recognition, and he also had cut back his hours as an art teacher at Sharpstown International School.
Now he is taking the leap to become a full-time artist. “Well, things have stayed busy, gotten busier if anything since the time I received the award,” says Renner. “I just turned in my resignation for teaching not too long ago, and I won't be going back this semester.”
The $2,000 prize money didn’t hurt, either. “I think it's fair to say that the award, the MasterMind Houston Press [award], afforded me more abilities to make other pieces. As a struggling artist, money is always helpful. I can't say what it went into, everyday living expenses, but also materials for projects.”
For those unfamiliar with the Funnel Tunnel, it consisted of hundreds of thin strips of painted wood attached to a steel frame; an edited version of the work (155-feet in length instead of our 180-feet) has since been installed on the Poydras Street sculpture corridor in New Orleans.
He’s a big fan of repurposing used building materials, and is always on the lookout for construction projects. “I sort of feel like all of Houston ends up being my resource for materials and I'm always scoping out piles of refuse from teardowns and renovations,” says Renner. “Also, I really love the buildings that tend to be kind of crumbling and not be in as good of repair. I love sort of like the different levels of age and character in the city, [there are] a lot of fun buildings that I’d like to play with.”
In February Renner built a 12-foot-tall Art Deco-inspired sculpture, Sentinel, on the plaza in front of City Hall; and in October the Houston Press named him Best Artist for 2015. He also has formed a new collaborative group, Flying Carpet, which is still taking shape but already has a major commission for the Downtown District’s neighborhood revitalization campaign, Art Blocks.
The District is bringing in works by local, national and international artists, including site-specific installations by Renner’s Flying Carpet group, as well as works by Jessica Stockholder (colorfully painted surface streets at Main and McKinney) and the New York-based collective, YesYesNo (an exploration of facial expressions and geometry).
“I feel like things have started; the stars have begun to align, so to speak,” says Renner. Flying Carpet’s Trumpet Flower will be a six-story tall sculpture at the 900 block of Main. “It will be a similar approach to Funnel Tunnel, so a steel frame with the participation of the public that we invite to be involved with the painting party which will come up at the end of January,” says Renner. “It’s sort of a canopy piece, intended to bring interest in the area of downtown; it's going to be in a niche between two buildings. That's pretty exciting because there's some bigger name international artists that will be attached to that.”
He also is installing a permanent public work at The Domain, a high-density business, retail and residential center in Austin. “That's going to be a roughly 30- by 60-foot woven stainless steel canopy piece with three concrete piers. It will be strips of stainless as opposed to wood – sleek and industrial looking. It’s outdoor; the intention there is to not only function as visual art, but can double as an amphitheater or for bands to play under, or a central marker for the layout of the campus.
“I’m pretty excited about it, and I'm hoping it will open the door for other permanent works,” says Renner. “There was a misunderstanding among my friends that I would be moving to Austin; that's not the case. I love Houston, and it will always be my home base.”
The feeling is mutual; we love Renner’s work, which is the reason we named him Best Artist for 2015. Receiving the “artist of the year nod” was “quite unexpected,” he says. “It's something. I feel like there’s a lot of good hometown love, and it makes me that much more excited and passionate about building the Houston team.”
See who wins the 2016 MasterMind Awards at the Houston Press Artopia party starting at 8 p.m. on January 30. Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter Street. For information, visit houstonpressartopia.com. Advance pricing $55 until January 29 at midnight, day of pricing $65 at the door.
MasterMind Award winners 2009 Patrick Medrano and Katy Anderson, Hightower High School's Broadcast Academy, Nova Arts Project
MasterMind Award winners 2010 Reginald Adams and the Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston, Opera Vista, SoReal Cru
MasterMind Award winners 2011 Foodways Texas, Catastrophic Theatre, Nameless Sound
MasterMind Award winners 2012 The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Alex "Pr!mo" Luster, The Pilot Light Restaurant Group
MasterMind Award winners 2013 Opera in the Heights, Karen Stokes Dance, Stark Naked Theatre
MasterMind Award winners 2014 Chuy Benitez, jhon r. stronks, Apollo Chamber Players
MasterMind Award winners 2015 Patrick Renner, Jefferson Davis High School Mariachi Pantera, Houston Arts and Media founder Mike Vance