By Marene Gustin
Wade Wilson is pretty excited about the opening he’s planning for his gallery for the 30th annual ArtHouston gallery hop on July 11.
“Dick Wray is just wonderful, he’s a true Texas artist,” Wade says of the Houston-born contemporary painter. “He was the Texas Artist of the Year in 2000, and this opening is also his 75th birthday. Plus, he’s met the love of his life and is getting married, and we’re having the reception at the gallery reception the day after ArtHouston.”
Art, and love, are two things Wilson knows about. He also met the love of his life this year, Charles Trueluck. Wilson says he’s been having a great time introducing Trueluck to the art scene. “He’s studying law, but he’s really excited to learn about art and he’s looking forward to ArtHouston as much as I am!”
Wade Wilson Art, in the super cool one-stop-culture-shop called 4411 Montrose, is just one of 37 galleries that opens its doors to the public July 11 for the 30th anniversary of Houston’s hottest summer art event.
“It’s just grown so much,” says Mariah Rockefeller of Harris Gallery. Rockefeller, who’s helping coordinate the day of art, explains that it began in 1979 as a way to encourage non-gallery goers to see art. The event, sponsored by the Houston Art Dealers Association, was called “Introductions” that first year and included just 12 galleries in an art-walk. “Now we have almost 40, all over the city. But there are still areas—Midtown, West U, River Oaks, and Gallery Row in Upper Kirby—that boast nine neighboring art hubs, where you can still park and walk to several places.” Rockefeller adds that most have special openings on that day, special pricing, and other incentives (not to mention a little wine and cheese along the way). And there’s one other thing that makes this year’s ArtHouston day special: monies raised benefit the Galveston Arts Center.
“That just means so much to us,” says Alex Irvine, GAC’s executive director. “We’re very touched and we need every dollar.”
The 23-year-old GAC, housed in an historical building on the Strand, has a reputation for presenting pacesetting contemporary art to more than 50,000 visitors a year, for free. But there have been no visitors for the past eight months, not since Hurricane Ike roared across the island.
“Our first floor is about six feet above street level,” Irvine says. “And we still had four feet of water in it. We lost $98,000 worth of art that was on exhibit and another $30,000 in the gift shop that was for sale.” Luckily, GAC was just preparing for a major renovation of the old bank building it is housed in and had already started to stabilize the building with metal frames, something that likely saved the structure from being lost.
“We are replacing the 30-year-old plumbing and electricity while we’re repairing the flood damage,” Irvine says. “We’re hoping to reopen in late fall, but it’s going to cost about $2.5 to $3 million.”
Wilson thinks it’s a great idea to give back to the art community. Wade Wilson Art is well known in the LGBT community for donating art and its owner’s time. Wilson was the emcee and auctioneer at the Human Rights gala this year. “The community is an integral part of the city’s art scene,” he says. “A good portion on my clients are from the community.”
ArtHouston 2009 hopes to provide at least $5,000 to the GAC from a portion of participating gallery profits. And maybe more. Rockefeller says all 37 galleries have donation boxes so visitors can also contribute to repairing the GAC.
“I know times are tough, but we’re hoping people will help out. It’s very important.” Rockefeller may find that people are more generous than she thinks. Wilson says that his gallery is already bouncing back from what little recession Houston has seen.
“I think the economy is turning,” he says. “We are seeing more and more people coming in. There’s not as much impulse buying as before, but there are some serious art buyers choosing some very good pieces.”
And there is plenty to choose from on July 11. While the idea behind ArtHouston is still to bring out folks who might otherwise go to galleries, buyers can also use this day to check out some of the best and most innovative art in Houston. With 37 galleries to choose from, there should be something for almost everyone’s taste, and many galleries will have special pricing that day. For buyers and browsers alike, the first step is to snag an ArtHouston 2009 brochure (which this year comes with an insert of exhibits for the rest of the year, so you’ll want to hold onto it), then map your route, and don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes. And one other thing: start early and be prepared for crowds.
“We were blessed to be included from the first year we opened, in 2006,” Wilson says. “That first year we stopped counting after 1,000 visitors. And every year since, we’ve been packed. I think this year, despite the economy and everything, might be the best yet. July is the zenith of the arts business here. We usually close down to regroup after that, but this year we’re having an opening in August. It’s just amazing.”
ArtHouston 2009: Visit 37 galleries on July 11. For more information and a complete list of galleries, check out arthouston.com . For more on Wade Wilson Art, see www.wadewilsonart.com.
Marene Gustin wrote about Mike and Linda Bratsen, 2009 Pride Honorary Grand Marshal, in the June issue of OutSmart magazine.