Arts Drama

Disrespected artist at center of Convention Center controversy settles: Work on showcase piece begins

Disrespected artist at center of Convention Center controversy settles

Ed Wilson Houston ARts Alliance rendering
Ed Wilson's proposal of a 60-foot mobile composed of stainless steel birds and clouds for the interior of the George R. Brown Convention Center. Photo by Bruce Bennett

"It's time to get to work."

With that statement by Ed Wilson, it appears as though the local artist is letting bygones be bygones. The five-month public controversy involving Houston Arts Alliance and Wilson is now officially settled.

In a statement issued Friday, Houston Arts Alliance president and CEO Jonathon Glus confirms that Wilson has accepted the terms of a $830,000 contract for a George R. Brown Convention Center installation on behalf of Houston First Corporation, which manages the large venue. (CultureMap wrote about the deal on Thursday.)

"This artwork will be one of the most visible aspects of the renovation of the George R. Brown," Glus says of Wilson's 60-foot mobile composed of stainless steel birds and clouds. "Being lit behind a glass window, the sculpture will be seen throughout the convention district."

The commission became the center of public outcry, particularly in the eyes of the art community, when a draft proposal delivered to Wilson was repealed in November.

"We hope this brings an unfortunate episode to a close and we can move forward as a community, and use this as a learning experience."

A disagreement over organizational procedure and power between Houston Arts Alliance committees caused the selection process to come to halt. It also resulted in the abrupt departure of then director of civic art and design Matthew Lennon, who was later replaced by former executive director of DiverseWorks Sara Kellner.

While Houston Arts Alliance board member Marc Melcher insists that the process was stopped and restarted to "ensure that our policies and procedures are tight and that the process was followed for this important commission," other documents reveal that some members of the committees, which included representatives of Houston First, deemed Wilson of not high enough national echelon to receive the award.

But on a second round of the selection process — to which all artists who had previously advanced to the semifinal stage were invited — Wilson was once again nominated for the piece that's meant to embellish the interior of the center just in time for the 2017 Super Bowl.

The press release also clarified Houston Arts Alliance's standard process for commissioning new works, which includes an expert panel to qualify artists under consideration, a second meeting to review submissions, a recommendation from this panel to Houston Arts Alliance's Civic Art Committee, review by the Civic Art Committee to ensure that the proposal is fit for the location, approval by the Civic Art Committee and final acceptance by the commissioning city department.

"We understand that this has been a difficult time for the arts community in Houston, and that the community looks to the Houston Arts Alliance to provide not just opportunities but leadership," Glus tells CultureMap.

"We hope this brings an unfortunate episode to a close and we can move forward as a community, and use this as a learning experience for all us together to understand not just public process, but the interests of individual artists in our community."