HOUSTON ART HISTORY INTERVIEW PROJECT

Pete Gershon with Roberta Harris, October 13, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Kayser.

Pete Gershon with Roberta Harris, October 13, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Kayser.

The Houston Art History Interview Project continues a long tradition of gathering oral histories from Houston artists and preserving them for future use.

As early as the mid-1930s, an art historian named Stella Hope Shurtleff mailed a questionnaire to people across the Gulf Coast region. She asked them to think back to their childhoods and provide such information as “the name of the first Art teacher in your town and county, names and address[es] of Artists, Craftsmen, Art teachers, Art collectors, Patrons, Art organization[s], owners of Paintings, Old furniture, etc.” From 1979 to 1985, Sandra Curtis Levy spearheaded a project that borrowed collections of papers from a variety of Texas artists, galleries, patrons, and arts organizations and preserved them on microfilm under the auspices of the Archives of American Art. Se also conducted a number of oral history interviews that are still available from the Smithsonian Institution. In the mid-1990s art consultant turned art historian Sarah “Sally” Reynolds began to record oral histories from prominent midcentury Houston artists. She too had pondered the community’s aging demographics and worried their stories would be lost. In 2008, edited transcripts of Reynolds’s interviews were compiled in a book titled Houston Reflections: Art in the City, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, published by Rice University Press in both a print-to-order edition and online. In the list of acknowledgements that begins her book, Reynolds writes, “As time went by, the list of those interviewed grew, but my collection of stories was my no means exhaustive. I leave to others the privilege of capturing those histories of another generation yet to be told.”

I began gathering interviews for this project in December 2018, using a Canon Rebel camera with first an external Rode microphone, then later ATK clip-on lav mics. I also added an LED light along the way. All videos are lightly edited in Adobe Premiere to eliminate false starts, interruptions, non-sequiturs, and dead ends. All subjects were given the opportunity to review and approve the results for public distribution. Subjects were selected somewhat intuitively, with the goal of presenting the broadest possible range of perspectives from those who have been active within Houston’s art community since the 1950s. We are making plans to transfer these videos to an appropriate archival repository for longterm access. Videos may be downloaded, stored, and shared freely in their entirety so long as they remain intact.

There’s a considerable backlog of additional material and I plan to add many more interviews in the months to come. Pete Gershon

ROCHELLA COOPER

BURFORD E. EVANS

MARIO GONZALES

ROBERTA HARRIS

MARY JENEWEIN

HARVEY JOHNSON

ROBBIE LEE

KEN LUCE

BERT LEON LUNA

ISRAEL MCCLOUD & AYANNA JOLIVET MCCLOUD

MELISSA MILLER

BASILIOS POULOS

ARTHUR TURNER

BOB WADE