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Downtown District’s WindowWorks Offers A Socially Distanced Escape

Beast Syndicate, The City of Future Past, WindowWorks installation at 609 Main.EXPAND
Beast Syndicate, The City of Future Past, WindowWorks installation at 609 Main.
Photo by Morris Malakoff

If eyes are the windows to the soul, then the windows of Houston’s Downtown District have a lot to say about the buildings and bustle of our fair town’s urban core. The Houston Downtown Management District in partnership with UP Art Studio has installed a new series of public artworks by Texas-based artists along Main Street in downtown. The art pieces will remain installed for a minimum of one year.

The strategic placemaking initiative titled WindowWorks transforms vacant and inactive store fronts with visual art to enliven the Downtown streetscape and enhance the pedestrian experience.

UP Art Studio, which is well known for its work creating murals on utility cabinets around Houston, seemed like a perfect match to help bring the idea to fruition. Downtown District was already planning to work with UP Art Studio for downtown's utility cabinets when inspiration struck.

“We shifted the program from the utility cabinets to the windows [of unused spaces.] We opened it up for submissions for all genres,” said Laurette Cañizares, Programming and Events Manager. “If you look at all 18 designers, they’re bright, uplifting and inspirational. That was by design because of what’s going on right now.”

The WindowWorks program underscores a larger purpose of Downtown District. As businesses are shuttering and the area’s residents and workers are seeing a downturn in people traffic, this serves a way to enliven the area. It is Downtown District’s trifecta answer to the pandemic. It provides some much-needed cheer by beautifying the area, it attracts new businesses to move into the urban zone, and it allows artists to showcase their work.

The participating artists include Samara Barks (Mixed Hues), Beast Syndicate, Steffany Brady, Elizabeth Carrington, Dee Jon, Erico Estrella, Angela Fabbri, Moni Yael Garwil, Ulys Gold, Ibarracolor, Karen Navarro, Ruben Ramires, Yoshio Romero, Josh Ryan, StarvingHues, Laurence Unger, Usagi Wasabi and Peso Zapata.

For those keeping track, WindowWorks is socially distanced too.

During a time when Houstonians are looking for fun things to do outdoors – and at a good distance away from one another – a self-guided tour is an easy solution. The 18 designs are featured on Houston Mural Map, an online source for murals and street art installations throughout the Greater Houston area.

Samara Banks, Reach for the Stars, WindowWorks installation at 1801 Main.EXPAND
Samara Banks, Reach for the Stars, WindowWorks installation at 1801 Main.
Photo by Morris Malakoff

“This is for the community at large. We’re so isolated right now, but we don’t have to stop socializing…we just have to do it at a distance. [Viewing these murals] is something a group of friends can do,” Cañizares said. “It resonates with all ages, backgrounds and religions. It is simply a feel good, vibrant, bright, inspiring and uplifting experience. It’s a catch-all for everyone.”

The installations mostly are encapsulated from the 200 to 1800 blocks of Main Street. As a bonus, the light rail makes the area easily accessible, and the wealth of restaurants and bars provide a place to take a break while enjoying the new sights of downtown Houston.

It looks like the temporary art installations are slowly shedding the "temporary" from their name. Instead, Houston might see a reinvigorated push to include more public art in the 002. Cañizares says businesses, both commercial and retail, have responded well to the art and are inquiring on how to install these pieces in their own properties. Keep checking the Houston Mural Map to see where the newest art is popping up.

On a larger scale, WindowWorks is part of Downtown Districts bigger initiative with Art Blocks. Projects have included site-specific temporary installations by internationally lauded artists and designers such as Patrick Renner, Jessica Stockholder, New York-based collective YesYesNo, Havel Ruck Projects and a number of others, some of which have made their Houston debut through participation in the program. The temporary installations complement the more than 30 permanent public art installations that call downtown home, and pop-up performances, interactive experiences and community festivals add to the creative spirit of the program.

To view Houston Mural Map, visit houstonmuralmap.com. For more information about WindowWorks, Art Blocks and related programming, please visit downtownhouston.org/art-blocks. Free.

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