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Maria Gaspar completes residency at Project Row Houses in Houston

Maria Gaspar Img 0773
Artist Maria Gaspar

Earlier this year, Hyde Park Art Center and Houston's Project Row Houses launched a first-time collaboration titled the 2:2:2 Exchange, which features an interchange between two artists, one based in Houston, TX, and one based in Chicago, IL. The 2:2:2 Exchange launched with Houston-based artist Rosine Kouamen’s participation in the Jackman Goldwasser Residency at the Art Center this past Winter, and concluded with Chicago-based artist Maria Gaspar’s residency at Project Row Houses in Houston this month.

During her final weeks in Houston, we caught up with Gaspar to ask her about her experience at Project Row Houses and how she anticipates the residency exchange will influence her practice once she's back home in Chicago.

What have you been working on while at Project Row Houses (PRH)?

During my residency at PRH, I have had the opportunity to think deeply about my artistic practice, both as an artist who makes work individually and collectively. First and foremost, the residency at PRH has presented an incredible opportunity to learn about the history of Project Row Houses from its founders and staff, connect with the Third Ward community, and the many people who contribute to the richness of the neighborhood. As an artist who works in community engaged art practices, this was a rich experience. 

Additionally, I have had the chance to meet with curators, artists, and leaders at the many arts and cultural institutions in Houston, which lent itself to gaining new perspectives on my work. Meeting others artists working in the field of community-based practice, as well as artists engaged in issues of race and representation and exchange ideas has been really great in my thinking and production of two upcoming shows I have in Chicago next year. I have also probably attended every lecture and arts event held in Houston the last two months!

What are your impressions of the city and the art & cultural community in Houston?

Houston is a thriving city. The arts community is strong and I have met really generous, smart, and critical artists who are doing great work here! It has been a source of replenishment and inspiration.

What do you hope to bring back to Chicago with you from the experience?

I can honestly say that I have made some dear friends in Houston. From the good people at PRH, to local artists in the neighborhood, or people I met during my visits to local arts institutions, there are already conversations about returning here, collaborating on sound projects, or meeting in Chicago and connecting them to my local community. This possibility in exciting to me, and the two-month residency allowed me to make these deeper connections. Also, gathering on the Project Row Houses porches for dance parties with good friends is not comparable to the Chicago porches (sorry Chicago)! There is something special about the row houses in fall that invite some good times, warmth, and friendship!

Do you see your very Chicago-sited work having a new place in Houston going forward? Anything else you'd like to share?

Absolutely! Although each city has its own unique specificities that are identifiable and local to its own history and context, I think there are a lot of similarities between Houston and Chicago. So much about building community is about learning, listening, and sharing. I have enjoyed learning about the work of artists and organizers here in relation to my own city and have felt so much commonality between the two especially on a political level, whether it be about the struggle against the displacement and gentrification of people of color that affect cities like Chicago and Houston, the social relationships between brown and black communities, and in turn, the methods that places like the Third Ward use to creatively and radically build powerful and thriving neighborhoods. One can really sense the love and labor of folks committed to their neighborhoods like that of Chicago. For me, these shared experiences present opportunities to work in solidarity with one another and I hope I can continue to connect with folks here and build upon ways that are relevant and radical to the places we come from and work in.

I thank so many people at both the Art Center and PRH for creating this opportunity, especially Megha Ralapati, Ryan Dennis, Allison Peters Quinn, Eureka Gilkey, Rick Lowe, and the generosity of all the PRH staff.

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