A MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS

2 Oct

cultural arts 

Celebrating 10 Years of Houston Excellence

BY STACEY HOLZER

The Museum of Cultural ArtsHouston is a museum without walls, one whose mission is to use art and creativity for social awareness and community development. 

Executive Director Reginald Adams and his wife Rhonda conceived the idea in a conversation about community kids who are unable or simply don’t visit the rich array of galleries, museums, and cultural venues Houston has to offer.  They, along with teams of volunteers and community support, bring the arts to neighborhood schools, churches, recreational centers and other public venues in the form of mosaic sculpture and murals.   This month MOCAH celebrates 10 years of excellence with more than 100 complete projects and a masquerade ball to rival the original which set it all in motion.    

The tradition of mosaic making dates back as far as 4,000 years and spans the world in various cultural traditions.   In Barcelona during the Art Nouveau era, Antoni Gaudi with Josep Jujol, created the magnificent mosaics of Guell Park in Barcelona, Spain.   Adams’ visit to Guell Park sparked the inspiration that brought the mosaics of MOCAH to Houston. An ideal medium for the humidity and climate changes of our city, mosaics also represent the diversity of our culture. Fragmented pieces of multiple odd shapes and sizes all finding their way to some cohesive whole image of place and identity.  Add this concept to the location of learning, and community for a winning combination that enriches our world. 

Adams views his work as fun, conversation, adventure; truly he loves what he does.  What if the purpose of life was to play?   Observing the contrast in the world makes him appreciate life all the more.   Constantly drawing on all that he saw, he knew early on how to shade, depicting objects in the third dimension. Michelle Barnes director of the Houston Community Arts Collective saw potential in his work and let him teach a class with kids.  His philosophy became draw enough of what you see and you will develop a technique you can teach. 

As a self taught artist, he always did what felt good without directive or influence from a formalist school.  Striving to develop his own visual language, Adams began to play with various forms of expression and eventually became a resident artist with Writer’s in the Schools.  As resident artist, he experimented in a vast array of mediums, materials and techniques as he worked with kids and their writing instructor to develop visual projects that would compliment their literary interpretations.   He later worked as project coordinator for Project Row Houses. Here he learned to explore additional materials, and was exposed to less traditional art forms such as sound, installation, exploration of sensory experience and others.  

Adams’ father had a significant role in his life and he admires how well he cared for his family growing up.  A businessman of stature in the community he brought his boys to work exposing them to board room meetings and corporate structure.  In addition, as an expansive soil scientist, he worked on Indian reservations, and could name nearly every single plant, identify tree erosion patterns, and soil type. 

On one particular trip to the Grand Canyon, father and son stood one behind the other viewing the background texture of a north ridge, crisp crystal clear, cotton billowy sky, against thousands of colors in the rocks.  At that moment Adams desire to create was mirrored in the face of god leading to a decade of work that gives back to the community.    

A keen sense of observation, led Adams to begin asking questions.    Who funded this project? What would it take to bring art to kids where they live?   A short time later Adams was working with the Menil Collection, MFAH, and many others painting

murals, building MOCAH throughout the city, funding the projects along the way through various foundation grants and other sources.  What if living in the question was all it takes to change your reality?  

Adams was raised with the belief that if you see an injustice, say something, and if nothing happens, do something about it.  When his son was in first grade in public school he noticed a few things to change and he decided to run for the school board.    Based on his experience with various other boards Adams believed that by becoming a board member he could align with leadership he could make a difference and be an agent for change.  Laws are then passed and legislature is put in place to create change. 

When you are in alignment with a large number of people things happen however when you are out of alignment there is friction or resistance.  Running for the school board brought out the best and the worst in people. Supporters raised funds and worked around the clock yet when the final tallies were in Adams lost the race miserably.  Looking back he was never so relieved in his whole life.  Never was there such an uphill climb to serve resistance.  

This experience is valuable because it provided Adams with the clarity to know what he really wanted.   From that point Adams focus returned to his art through MOCAH.  Adams target is to empower kids by showing them a different way to be in the world.  The community is involved and many who participate engage on various levels crossing cultural and social boundaries.  

So in the end MOCAH makes a difference utilizing allowance, choice, and contribution.  The mosaics and mural pictured above were produced by the students from the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice and students from the YES Academy.  To see how MOCAH can facilitate a project in your community contact Reginald Adams Reginald@mocah.org. Read more about contemporary art at www.visualseen.net

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