The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Tiny Art Galleries

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Everything's actually not bigger in Texas, at least not when it comes to art galleries. Houston's the fourth largest city in the country (you know we have to say that every chance we get), and home to some of America's most acclaimed museum galleries (yes, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, we're talking about you). But small also has a home in the visual arts community. Did we say small? Sorry, we meant tiny. As in super minuscule. Here's our list of our top ten favorite tiny art galleries.

10. The Central Gallery, The Holocaust Museum Houston Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St. 713-942-8000, hmh.org

Every square inch of the Holocaust Museum Houston is used to get the anti-hate, "never forget" message out. Exhibits, archives, books, photos, art and more relevant to the Holocaust and its legacy fill the building. Even a slender hallway that's been dubbed The Central Gallery has been transformed into exhibition space. We had the pleasure of seeing "Displaced Persons: Photographs by Clemens Kalischer" there in 2011. The exhibit was made up of photographs of displaced persons and refugees fleeing the Nazis in Europe in the late 1940s. It documented the immigrants' first few moments in America, capturing their excitement, weariness, hope and exhaustion.

Regular gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

9. The Joanna 1401 Branard 713-825-1803

The epitome of a DIY gallery, The Joanna played a small but important role in the local art scene for six years hosting as many as 11 shows a year. Housed in a lived-in bungalow, the gallery was really just the home's living room cleared of furniture and transformed into a pop-up gallery (and sometime dancehall). Despite its limited runs, The Joanna drew large and enthusiastic crowds of art lovers who, like the gallery organizers, wanted to put a little fun in art. Co-founder Cody Ledvina announced the space's last show in March. Ledvina is moving on to the former Domy store space, next to Cafe Brasil and The Joanna "will undergo a gender transition into The Brandon." Programming for the new gallery will begin in September, when a large group show is planned. (The story is the Joanna of the gallery's name is an imaginary, chain-smoking 13-year-old girl who lives in a trailer park. No telling who Brandon is, but we're sure he's just as exuberant and wild.)

8. Bill'sJunk 1125 E 11th St. 713 863-7112, billdavenport.com

Bill Davenport, owner of Bill's Junk, says the gallery is "an artist-curated exhibition space merging high art, low craft, nature and salvage."

One recent show was "Shane Tolbert: Talk of Montauk,: a collection of nine bright and colorful paintings completed while the artist was in residency at the Edward Albee Foundation in Montauk, Long Island.

Regular gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment.

7. Lobby Gallery, Museum of Printing History 1324 W. Clay St. 713-522-4652, printingmuseum.org

About the size of two offices, the Museum of Printing History's Lobby Gallery packs a lot of punch into a few square feet and has been host to several exciting shows. One of our favorites was "Texas Zydeco," a photography exhibit by James Fraher from his book of the same name. (Roger Wood was co-author for the release). Some 40 photos filled the gallery, bringing the sights, if not the sounds, of Zydeco to the Montrose area museum.

6. The Windowbox 6700 Harrisburg 713-533-8692, box13artspace.com

Facing busy Harrisburg Boulevard, The Windowbox is a literal store-front (it's part of the East End gallery and artist co-op Box13 Art Space which is housed in a former sewing-machine factory). Made up of a thin sliver of space and floor-to-ceiling windows, The Windowbox has showcased avant-garde installations and experimental art.

We give the gallery extra points for its efficient use of what could have easily been wasted space.

5. Redbud Gallery 303 East 11th St. 713-854-4246, redbudgallery.com

The Redbud Gallery, a modest establishment in the Heights, has been around since 1999. Upcoming exhibits include shows by Finnish artist Inka Maaria Jurvanen and New Orleanean Mark Bercier, neither of which is expected to cause the uproar seen in response to the gallery's 2000 "sextablo" exhibit (an x-rated adaptation of the religious symbols -- think Jesus on the cross ... getting a blow job). Now as then, gallery owner Gus Kopriva says he's showing art. Sometimes it's birds, sometimes it's landscapes, and sometimes it's Jesus on the cross getting a blow job.

Regular gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

4. The Matchbox Gallery Rice University, 6100 Main St. 713-348-4882, studioart.rice.edu

Chris Sperandio, the head of the Rice University Studio Art program, initiated The Matchbox Gallery in 2009 as a way to bring Rice students and the larger Houston arts community together. The gallery's first show, an installation called "For Uncle Buddy with Love" by Rice Arts alumn Erin Rouse, was such a success the program was expanded and the gallery became a permanent part of the Studio Art department.

A second goal was hands-on gallery management experience for Rice students. The first Matchbox director was senior Visual Arts major Logan Beck. The gallery got its name because of its small, boxy space.

3. The EMERGEncy Room Rice University, 6100 Main 713-348-4882, studioart.rice.edu

As its name implies, the single room project The EMERGEncy Room gallery was started in an effort to showcase emerging artists. Despite its small size, The EMERGEncy Room has been host to several powerful and relevant exhibitions.

"Comics: Works from the Collection of Robert Boyd" is currently on exhibit; past shows include the gallery's inaugural exhibition "Seth Mittag: We're Still Here..." (seen above).

Regular gallery hours are 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, 11-3:00 p.m. Saturdays.

2. The Closet Box, inside Box 13 6700 Harrisburg box13artspace.com

It seems the smaller the art galleries get, the more specific organizers must be about where the gallery and its exhibit are to be found. For our number two spot, we've chosen The Closet Box: Micro Gallery/ Wonder Emporium.

Organizers describe it as "an art venue inside a closet at Box 13 Artspace." The gallery, started in September 2009, challenges artists to address its uber-small space and bad lighting as they create site specific installations.

As with the Central Gallery at the Holocaust Museum, The Closet Box presents art to passersby on their way to a library, gallery or studio. (Translation: See art on your way to see art.)

Hours vary, usually available during other events at Box 13.

1. The Kenmore Various locations 713-582-1198, the-kenmore.blogspot.com

Our number one choice for top tiny art gallery is The Kenmore, a mini-fridge (the kind you see in dorm rooms). The Kenmore is curated by local artist Emily Sloan, who writes that the miniature gallery is not "just another white cube, The Kenmore is a small, cold, mobile exhibition object... [with a] mission ... to keep ideas fresh through the opportunity of a unique exhibition context and the experience of collaboration. Sloan, a self-described "internationally unknown artist and Southern Naptist," currently has the traveling exhibition space inside Gallery 1724 (1724 Bissonnet), itself "a gallery, salon, home, and chicken ranch located in the Houston Museum District." The Kenmore is hosting the exhibit ''Jessica Dupuis: Miniature" through the end of May.

Hours vary for The Kenmore from exhibit to exhibit.

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