"There’s an accountability that I think rests very squarely on the shoulders of creative people and their ability to speak and to touch the masses. It is critical that we recognize that and use that for all things good that will motivate and elevate."
-ISRAEL McCLOUD, THE PAINTER
HOUSTON IN 2020: SELF-EMPLOYED BLACK ARTISTS is a multimedia project documenting the impact of current sociopolitical, economic, and cultural factors on five Black artists in the Bayou City. It is also a collaboration.
Led by Amy C. Evans, an award-winning artist and oral historian, this innovative documentary collection consists of audio interviews, transcripts, photographs, archival materials, videos, as well as five original paintings that Amy created in response to her conversations with fellow artists.
The project's title is not only a reference to the year it was produced, but a nod to the adage that hindsight is 20/20. By documenting the stories of some of our city's Black artists in real time--in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Houston native, and in the midst of a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on small businesses and minority-owned businesses, in particular--this project serves as an opportunity to reflect on and learn from this challenging period for decades to come.
The goal of the project is to elevate the stories of self-employed Black artists in our community who are facing unprecedented barriers not just to success, but survival. It is also a reminder that creative people usually find creative solutions, and the pivots these artists have made in order to continue earning a living in their chosen fields are no exception.
This genre-defying documentary effort speaks to the power of creativity, conversation, and connection when we all need it most. It also offers up a healthy dose of inspiration to help us navigate these trying times and carry us into the future.
This is Houston in 2020.
A NOTE ON PROCESS
All of these interviews were conducted in August 2020. As of August 14, Houston is a COVID-19 hotspot, and the city has reported 90,574 confirmed cases and 1,012 deaths. A mask-wearing ordinance is in effect, and social distancing has become second nature for just about everyone. As a result, and to ensure the safety of all participants, all of these interviews were conducted via Zoom.com, and all photographic portraits and videos were made at an appropriate distance. This, of course, did not allow for the deep listening and lingering interactions that in-person interviews usually afford. Even so, it is this interviewer's belief that our craving for human connection during this period of strict social isolation made even these virtual connections profound.
All participants received honoraria for their contributions to this project.
All interview materials are being archived at The African American Library at the Gregory School, part of the Houston Public Library.
AMY C. EVANS, artist and oral historian