Say Hello to galleryHOMELAND, One of Houston's Newest Art Galleries

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Tucked behind a warehouse on Commerce Street, across from rising condos just east of downtown, you'll find one of Houston's newest art galleries.

Well, technically, galleryHOMELAND isn't all that new. Since moving to Houston several years ago, director Paul Middendorf has been putting on various curatorial projects and had a soft opening last fall at the warehouse space. And the gallery is an extension of his eight-year-old Portland-based gallery of the same name. But with last month's opening of "Daytime Television," the red-doored gallery has officially arrived.

Curated by Debra Barrera, "Daytime Television" features new work by Trey Ferguson, Hillaree Hamblin, Stephanie Hamblin, Miguel Martinez and Ana Villagomez -- artists currently studying at Rice University and the University of Houston. It's pretty much in line with the gallery's mission to support local, up-and-coming talent.

We caught up with Middendorf via e-mail to find out more about this scrappy new addition to Houston's arts landscape.

What kinds of curatorial projects has galleryHOMELAND done here in the past?

Middendorf: Well, the first organization that brought me from the Pacific Northwest was Lawndale Art Center, to jury the "Big Show" in 2010. They treated me so well, introduced me to so many great people and toured me around the city. It was really an amazing time, and so I wanted to make sure I came back a few more times to start meeting with Houston's artists, curators and arts admins. I worked on a collaborative event at the Joanna in October of 2010, "Scare the Schwitters Outa Ya," and really had a blast. Since then I moved to Houston and worked on a series of exhibitions, panel discussions and lectures. The biggest was a Tri City project called Southern/Pacific, which brought together artists from Houston, Marfa and Portland. I ended up curating that in Houston at Lawndale Art Center August of 2011. Skipping forward to this past fall I had the soft opening of galleryHOMELAND Houston in November and we just had our grand opening March 29. I have been really excited about Houston as a relative newbie, and so I have gotten quite active and loving every bit of it.

How did galleryHOMELAND wind up finding a permanent home here?

Middendorf: Once I decided to move here, I immediately wanted to open another space here. galleryHOMELAND Portland is very much about the community we reside in and the city of Portland. Houston is such a warm and welcoming city with so much happening within, I knew it would fit perfectly with our mission. I wanted to make sure I found a sustainable location and in an interesting part of town. Commerce Street has such a lush history it seemed an ideal location for the new galleryHOMELAND. Now that we are here and up and running, I plan on a lot more cross-pollinating projects with the Pacific Northwest. In fact, I just shipped our last show from Houston up there this past week. Currently we have several Houston artists we are arranging shows for in Portland and some possible residencies as well.

Your location is a little off the beaten art path, though part of a growing East End scene. How did you find it?

Middendorf: I first took a look at the space while doing a studio visit with Terrell James and John Calaway in 2010. It was such a lovely building and I really liked the rawness of the area. It reminded me of the early days of the Pilsen Art Scene in South Chicago. I immediately wanted to move in, but the timing wasn't right and I still lived in Portland. Only about seven months ago did some space open up, and I jumped right on top of it and made it the galleryHOMELAND location.

What's your mission as an art gallery?

Middendorf: galleryHOMELAND is an arts organization advancing awareness of our rich cultural community that surrounds us by creating new opportunities and lasting cultural exchange in a unique series of programs focused on exporting local arts and artists and importing national and international art and artists. Meaning, we really like to get involved in the local arts community. As I stated, I try and get out and about as much as possible. There are so many great things going on in this city it's hard to see it all, but I try. The great thing about our programming is we are able to collaborate with many other galleries, organizations and institutions. With our fondness for experimental projects and exhibitions, we can allow a platform for artists represented in town to branch out and work out new ideas. Same goes for younger and emerging artists.

How did "Daytime Television" come about? Why did you want that to be your first show at your new location?

Middendorf: I had gone to the open studios at the University of Houston sometime ago and really liked a lot of the work I saw there. I started a conversation with Debra Barrera and we both agreed there was a great deal of young talent. With the timing of the show and time frame of these young artists getting ready to graduate with their BFAs, it seemed ideal. I wanted to make sure the first show was with Houston artists and artists that were already becoming active within the Houston arts scene. I knew Debra was going to bring an amazing dialog to the table, and she did. The artists worked hard and really pulled the stops.

What do you have in mind for future programming?

Middendorf: Well, I have quite a few things on the burner and back burners. A bit like Hell's Kitchen, if you will. Besides our exhibitions, I have some residencies planned here at the space, lecture projects, off-site programming, performances, screenings and monthly events. I couldn't be more excited!

"Daytime Television" runs at galleryHOMELAND, 2327½ Commerce Street, now through May 26. For more information, call 503-819-9656 or visit www.galleryhomeland.org/wordpress/galleryhomeland-houston.

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