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Art League Houston Event Uplifts Immunocompromised and Disabled Adults

The annual benefit helps fund community art classes.

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Chi-K-No by artist Violette Bule is up for auction at Art League Houston’s 2020 Block MARTY.

Art League Houston (ALH) will host a virtual silent art auction and exhibition on Saturday, July 25. 

The 2020 Block MARTY: A Summer Montrose Art Party occurs at 7 p.m. live on ALH’s Facebook page. Proceeds from the event will go to the nonprofit’s Healing Art program, a series of creative courses designed to empower chronically ill and physically disabled adults, many of whom are part of the LGBTQ community.

Although ALH had to move its annual summer event online due to COVID-19, the benefit remains free and open to the public. People can support the Healing Art program through July 25 by either bidding on pieces by Texas-based creatives in the online auction or buying original works by Healing Art participants on ALH’s website. Artists involved can choose to donate a portion of their sales to ALH. 

The Block MARTY will be emceed by Outspoken Bean, an award-winning performance poet and writer, and feature a performance by Urban Souls Dance Company’s Artistic Director Harrison Guy, a gay activist and dance instructor. The event will also include interviews with program participants and a word about the program from the art party’s co-chairs and Healing Art teaching staff.

These works and more are available at this year’s Block MARTY (photo by Alex Barber).

This year’s Block MARTY is a chance for program participants to show their work and celebrate their progress while generating much-needed income.

“Supporting artists financially is so important during this time because the artist community is struggling through this pandemic,” says Eepi Chaad, ALH’s director of community engagement. “The event was created to celebrate these artists and bring in income for them. Being able to show your work on such a vast scale really changes participants’ confidence level.”

Block MARTY has been the Healing Art program’s primary mode of funding since its conception in 2007. This year’s event is particularly important considering the proceeds will be used to support both the program and community members impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including LGBTQ folks who are immunocompromised, living with HIV/AIDS, and disabled.

Healing Art has changed since it first began in 1990 but has never strayed far from its roots. Founded in partnership between ALH and Patrick Palmer, a gay male Houston-based artist, the program was made for adults living with HIV/AIDS. 

Palmer, who now serves as the dean of the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, says after his best friend died of AIDS, he wanted to provide a creative outlet for people living with the disease. He says Healing Art exceeded his expectations and became a supportive and meaningful space where people could both create art and find community.

“The program gave people a place to go once a week that wasn’t medically-oriented—a place where they could forget about their disease and be with a community where people were making art and laughing,” says Palmer. “It’s a wonderful opportunity, a place for people to just go and be creative and happy.”

An image from the 2019 Block MARTY (photo by Alex Barber)

Although Healing Art currently takes place through Zoom due to the pandemic, the program still offers four art classes for up to 10 participants every Friday, from September through May. The program also provides one-on-one instruction and opportunities for students to grow as artists via skill-building activities from sketching classes to two-week ceramics workshops. 

“Healing Art reaches out to those in the community who may need an activity to occupy them while touching others and advancing skills,” a 2012–13 participant said.

ALH is currently discussing how and when to hold future classes, and Chaad says the organization intends to expand to accept more participants. For more information on joining the program, contact Chaad at [email protected]

“Creating art is a great tool for pain and anxiety, and it’s easier to explain to someone who has gone through what you’ve gone through,” Chaad notes. “To have a group of peers who have shared experiences is beneficial to participants, who’ve become more like a little family than classmates.”

To learn more about Art League Houston, Healing Art, or the 2020 Block MARTY, visit artleaguehouston.org

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Lillian Hoang

Lillian is a spring 2020 intern for OutSmart magazine and a journalism major at the University of Houston. She is minoring in Asian American studies and also works as a College of Education communication assistant. She has interned at the Houston Chronicle and hopes to become an editor-in-chief.

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