by John Slaby
(this article was originally featured in 365 Things To Do In Houston)
Many people find going to art galleries intimidating. There is a general feeling that one must be well-educated in art and have the ‘right’ opinions or be snubbed. This is understandable. But in truth, most galleries are welcoming spaces. They are not dissimilar to restaurants: you can find places where you may be berated for not using the right fork, but most are casual and inviting. I know this. I have been a member of the local art community and a collector for many years. When I first started out, I was intimidated and hesitant. But as I got to know the people of the community I began to feel more at ease.
Getting to Know the Artists Down the Street
If you are willing to venture out, you will find there’s art of great beauty and high craftsmanship created by your neighbors and available at local galleries, studios, and art fairs. These talented local artists are as diverse as our city. They range in all education levels. Some were educated at Houston’s fine art schools and may have advanced degrees. Some, like myself, are self-taught. All have been honing their skills through the years and following their own path of artistic development, growing, and influencing each other. Houston has a wide range of all art types, providing something for everyone. If you have not immersed yourself in this community, you’re missing out on some very fine art. Meeting these artists is a positive experience. Being fellow Houstonians, they are friendly and more than willing to share their motivations, techniques, and the history of their work. This really enhances the art experience—understanding the artists and their work makes the art more valuable. It attaches a story and a memory to the work, as well as deepens the emotional attachment.
Local Art Brings Local Connection & Reflection
Supporting local artists supports local businesses: you are helping our community. But local art transcends this purely transactional effect. Art is a deep reflection of who we are as a people and culture. These artists live and work in our community and are deeply influenced by it. The Houston experience shows up in the work itself: the good—like our modern architecture and beautiful parks—and the not so good—like our turbulent weather and traffic. Only a local artist can understand our home because it is their home, too. Only a local artist can truly speak for us.
Local Art Creates a Legacy
I have worked on my own art collection over the years, gathering works of my artist friends and colleagues. These pieces grace my home. I don’t expect them to increase in value; that’s not why I bought them. Instead, each time I look upon my collection I feel a surge of joy and satisfaction from having these beautiful works in my home, from my recollections of the artist, from my connection to the subject matter, and from knowing I have supported a core element of our city. That’s the best return on investment I could ask for.
But one of the most significant aspects of supporting local art is that this will become our legacy. The work that is produced here and makes its way into private and public collections will live on long after we and these artists have passed. This is how we will be remembered, just as we, looking at work produced centuries ago, can see into the lives of those distant generations. These simple actions, made by individuals, resulted in an enormous artistic gift to the future for all to enjoy. Now we have such an opportunity. The art is out there waiting for you.