Visual Arts

MasterMinds One Year Later: Reginald Adams and MOCAH

Reginald Adams, founder of the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston (MOCAH), credits his MasterMinds Award win last year as boosting more than MOCAH's bank account. "Every penny counts with the work we do," he tells us, "so the money was certainly appreciated and well used. But the money itself didn't make as much of an impact as much as the recognition." Adams says that after the award ceremony last year, MOCAH signed several large contracts for arts projects with community organizations such as Neighborhood Centers, Inc., the Greenspoint Redevelopment Community and Sparks Parks.

"Last year alone, we certainly had our most aggressive production calendar in our 10-year history," Adams says. "I would attribute some of that success absolutely to the recognition that we picked up with the Houston Press. We kicked off "The Art of Culture," our exhibition series, created a mural for the Earth Day Festival and for the Bayou City Arts Festival. And we've established an incredible partnership with Charming Charlie." (Charming Charlie is a costume jewelry retailer that donates damaged materials to MOCHA for a project with mentally challenged clients; they recycle the materials, creating new works to be sold.)

"How much of all of that was in the works and how much of it came because of the MasterMinds award, I can't really say," Adams tells us. "But all of that took place within 10 months of winning the award. And we already have this year completely booked up. So I can certainly attribute some of the newfound interest in our programming to the Houston Press article, by letting them know my back story and the work we're doing through MOCAH." (Adams jokes that being on the cover of last year's MasterMinds issue also got him several free lunches from people who saw the coverage.)

"Actually, it took everything to a whole new level. It gave me more confidence to keep doing what I've been doing," says Adams. "The fact that other people saw me in this way, helped me to see myself in that same way. That was one of the most surprising results, that was the biggest impact on me personally - being called a mastermind. I never thought of myself that way"

"In a way it has branded me," he says. "I have people to this very day who say, 'Oh, there's the MasterMind.' That's certainly not a bad way to be recognized."

"Well, at least until your Genius Grant comes through," we say.

"You mean the MacArthur Fellowship?" Adams asks, referring to the annual award which includes $500,000 prize money. "Yes, well, I'm still working on that one," he laughs.

By all accounts Adams has made the most of last year's prize, and he has some advice for this year's winners as to how they can do the same: "The opportunity is what you make it. To every one of the artists and organizations that are chosen this year, I want to say don't take the acknowledgment lightly. Use it in every way you can. Carry a bunch of the newspapers around with you wherever you go," he advises. Being able to point to the cover story of an established newspaper and say, "Hey, I won an award," is instant credibility.

Adams also recommends that this year's winners look inward. "Take the time to be introspective and look at why someone would recognize you as [a MasterMind]," he says. "There were literally hundreds of artists, writers, filmmakers, organizations, dance companies and theater groups that were eligible for this year's awards. For some reason you stood out to the selection committee. Take some time to figure out why, what it was about you and your work that deserved recognition. Then figure out how you can develop it / capitalize on it / bottle it for future use."

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Olivia Flores Alvarez