Art Scandal Settled

Convention center art scandal gets a (somewhat) happy ending: But where's the Houston Arts Alliance apology?

Houston convention center arts scandal gets a (somewhat) happy ending

George R. Brown Convention Center at night May 2013
The George R. Brown Convention Center's been the stage for an unlikely Houston art scandal. George R. Brown Convention Center/Facebook
Ed Wilson Houston artist head shot
Ed Wilson was chosen (for a second time) for a $830,000 installation. Photo by Julie Knudson
George R. Brown Convention Center at night May 2013
Ed Wilson Houston artist head shot

In a strange turn of events, the major Houston Arts Alliance scandal that started with a high-priced commission being rescinded from a popular local artist appears to have come full circle.

The end of this controversy is only a signature away from finally finding a happy ending.

Houston Arts Alliance president and CEO Jonathon Glus confirms to the Chronicle that artist Ed Wilson was chosen (for a second time) for a $830,000 George R. Brown Convention Center installation sculpture comprising shiny metal clouds and birds. Glus affirmed that the city's agency for public art has indeed offered a draft contract to Wilson, stating that he was expecting the document to be signed, pending further negotiations.

What the community at large would really like to hear is a genuine apology from the Houston Arts Alliance over the mishandling.

The public shitstorm — somewhat a game of he said, she said — began in November when the various committees, the job of which was to select and approve the proposal, couldn't agree on procedure and final consent. Such uproar caused then civic art and design director Matthew Lennon to resign. The position was filled by Sara Kellner, former executive director of DiverseWorks.

Several artists expressed dissatisfaction by speaking directly to the Houston City Council and by taking down their art from Houston City Hall. Houston Arts Alliance responded by releasing new guidelines and starting the process over again from step one.

In January, the original seven artists who, alongside Wilson, had previously advanced to the semifinal stage, were reinvited to submit their ideas. At the time, Wilson wasn't too keen on participating in the review process again.

While this conclusion will have local art advocates satisfied, what the community at large would really like to hear is a genuine apology from the Houston Arts Alliance over the mishandling of such sensitive matters. Because an expression of regret goes a long way in regaining trust with constituents.

But will they get it?