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Patricia Rubio, a participant in this year's stARTup Art Fair, proudly displays her work.
Patricia Rubio, a participant in this year's stARTup Art Fair, proudly displays her work.
Photo by Mido Lee

stARTup Art Fair Makes Debut In Houston

Houston is getting an extra dose of creativity to its already packed arts lineup this weekend. stARTup Art Fair is launching its inaugural event in Texas at Hotel Icon. The fair will transform the third and fourth floor of the hotel into an immersive, contemporary art experience through the exhibition of artwork by a diverse group of independent artists, local art nonprofits, artist performances, installations and panel discussions. It runs October 11-13.

Unlike the several other art festivals taking place throughout the year, stARTup Art Fair's director Ray Beldner says his show will take on a different flavor.

"While we are open to the public, the level of art is higher than what you’ll find at a street festival, and we’re have a serious jury of art professionals. The artists are not craft people. They’re professional artists," he said.

Exhibiting artists were selected through a submission and review process with several local Houston contemporary art fixtures and international figures. Comprising the selection committee are Kelly Montana, Curator, Menil Drawing Institute; Ryan Dennis, Curator and Programs Director, Project Row Houses; Jacob Spanhel, Czech Republic-based artist; Robert Hodge, Houston-based artist; Cindy Lisica, Houston-based Gallerist and Jonathan Hopson, Houston-based Gallerist.

Beldner also adds it’s going to be an interesting mix of local artists and from all over the United States with a 50/50 mix of local to visiting artists. The artists include Fariba Abedin (TX), Matthew John Bivalacqua (LA), Kristina Bivona (NY), Janice Bond (TX), Haley Bowen (TX), Anne M Bray (CA), Pam Cardwell (NY), Devin Cogger (OR), Jack Delaney (TX), Justin O'Keith Higgs (TX), Jeff Horton (AR), Jeff Jennings and Richard Kurtz (TX), Ian Macleod (WA), Emily Maddigan (CA), Scott Madison (NJ), Monica Melgar (TX), Steve Murphy (TX), Becky Newsom (NJ), Karen Olsen-Dunn (CA), Anthony Pabillano (TX), Hugo Perez (TX), Cary Reeder (TX), Patricia Rubio (CA), Ann Stautberg (TX), John Swanger (TX) and Nancy Willis (CA).

What's also unique about the show is its location inside a hotel.

"There’s a long history or art fairs starting at hotels. I’ve always liked that format over the booths in a convention hall because it's more personal. On a practical level of artists, these artists aren’t super wealthy, so a hotel is a great option if you’re coming from out of town. You get to have the fair and stay where your art is," Beldner said.

He added that the choice of venue forces attendees to go into each room, and it eliminates the hubbub of a bustling convention hall. Each room is its own space and offers an intimate interaction with individual artists.

stARTup Art Fair was founded in San Francisco in 2015 by Beldner with an intent to present art in new ways with providing an alternative for artists to show their work on their own terms outside of the traditional gallery system. The fair has gone on to five editions in San Francisco and four in Los Angeles. Wanting to expand to the south was a natural choice for him.

"We were looking for another arts city with a lot of artists and a great arts scene. Houston is a big city and 4th largest art market in the country, so I wanted to get off the west coast and expand to the south," he said. "We’re not in a huge rush to become a behemoth, but...I want to go where the artists are."

Beldner does encourage people to check out all the arts events happening this weekend, including the Texas Contemporary and the Bayou City Art Festival, to see what appeals to individual tastes.

"We’re very different from the other two on the same weekend. The Texas Contemporary has galleries, and Bayou City Art Festival is really a big art and craft festival. People get the opportunity to see them all and compare them, and they’ll have different audiences," he said.

He's also not afraid to back up that claim by putting his money where his mouth is. Purchasing a VIP pass to stARTup Art Fair gives the ticket holder access to Texas Contemporary VIP Program as well, which includes a preview on Thursday and admission during public fair hours Friday through Sunday.

Whichever event you choose, get ready to party hard with the art crowd.

stARTup Art Fair has a VIP preview on Friday, 6-7 p.m.. General admission hours are 7-10 p.m., Friday; 12-9 p.m. Saturday; 12-7 p.m., Sunday at Hotel Icon, 220 Main Street. For information, visit startupartfair.com/houston. Tickets range $10-$100.

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