MasterMind Update: An Art HQ In An Old East Texas Schoolhouse Looks More Likely Now

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Rounding out our earlier updates about last year's MasterMind winners is a report on the progress of the Fodice Foundation, a project started by Houston artists Katy Anderson and Patrick Medrano to save a crumbling East Texas schoolhouse and, eventually, turn it into a center for artists from all mediums.

Anderson and Medrano, who are married, were dumping loads of their own money into the project before winning the Houston Press award.

"Honestly, at that point, we used it for ourselves as artists," Anderson tell Hair Balls about the $2,000 MasterMind prize. "It was like, 'Oh, thank Jesus.' We used it to pay our bills and get back afloat."

Since winning the award, the foundation has secured ownership of the school building, located in tiny Fodice, Texas, settled by freed slaves after the Civil War, located about 45 miles northeast of Huntsville. The school held classes until 1960, "when desegregation caused students to be transferred to other area schools," according to the Press article from last year.

"Now we have to get up a fence to protect the school. There's nothing keeping people from entering the property or the building itself because all the doors have been taken," says Anderson, who explored the abandoned schoolhouse herself as a youngster growing up close to Fodice. "We're out there all the time, constantly checking up on it."

Apart from the foundation's Board of Directors, Anderson and Medrano haven't taken many people along with them on their trips to Fodice. That's going to change this summer, when the foundation will offer trips to the school for foundation members. (You can become a Fodice Foundation member by visiting its Web site.)

"It's really rough, it's in ruins," Anderson says. "It's a dangerous structure, so we haven't let a lot of people go out and see it, because if we take people out there now, and they decide they want to go back and do anything there, there's nothing preventing that from happening."

Anderson hopes to start the major renovation of the school this summer, after -- hopefully -- the foundation begins getting some grant money. While other MasterMind winners have found that art funding dried up after the economy tanked, Anderson is optimistic about finding the cash to work on the school, adding that the foundation has one of the best grant writers in the country.

"We've met with lots of engineers and architects and historic preservation experts, and they've looked at us and told us it's a $2 million project, if we want to do all the things we're saying," Anderson says. "We're okay with that; we've got time."

When renovation is complete, which Anderson says will take about three to four years, the building will become an "Art Farm," Anderson says, a program that will host four artists at a time, from different parts of the country, and provide residencies for them at the Fodice school.

"There's no community there anymore, so there's hundreds of descendants of that community who have reached out and offered us support," Anderson says. "We'll do monthly art shows, exhibits, plays, performances and big music festivals. It's going to have a huge impact on East Texas."

The Press is handing out $2,000 MasterMind awards again this year, and the winners will be honored on Saturday January 30, 2010 during our Artopia Party at Winter Street Studios. And be sure to check out our Artopia Preview Party on January 15, 2010 at Reign Lounge.

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