Fiber Artist Ann Morton Engages Houston Community in Socially Relevant Exhibition

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Individuals from all walks of life participated in Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's fall exhibition, which includes two installations made from "Houston Chronicle" newspapers.

Detail of "What Happened Today?" Photo by Ann Morton.

While the rug installation acts as a visual condensation of newsworthy events, the quilt captures individual contemplation and commonalities.

This fall, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is pleased to present "What Happened Today?," an exhibition of newly created works by Arizona-based fiber artist, Ann Morton. Through two large-scale installations, Morton highlights the relevance of printed news and hand-crafted objects and their combined ability to communicate parallels among the voices of the individual, the greater Houston community, and the world-news stage. The exhibition also includes Morton’s award-winning work, "The Collective Cover Project." This installation utilizes randomly found objects to explore ideas of place, time and memories of events, as well as their effects on individuals and on social, cultural, and political aspects of society.

"What Happened Today?" is comprised of two community-based components. One involves commentary from the lives of Houston residents as they interact with their local newspaper by responding to a question about their day, and the other includes the collection of local and national events deemed worthy of the Houston Chronicle’s news cycle.

During the spring and summer of 2015, Houstonians responded to an ad in the Houston Chronicle by answering the question “What happened today?” on a 3-x-3-inch note and mailing it to HCCC. Individuals from all walks of life responded, from prisoners in Harris County jails and senior citizens to kids of all ages and immigrants starting to learn English. Responses were also collected from visitors to HCCC and from drop boxes in several locations throughout the community. Many of the responses are very moving, such as a man who “came out and kissed a dude” and a prisoner who missed his three kids. Through their anonymous notes, participants revealed the deepest, darkest and also happiest moments they experienced on any given day. For the exhibition, Morton created a large hand-sewn quilt, comprised of all the notes collected throughout this period of time.

For the second part of the project, HCCC and Morton worked with a number of local community groups, university students, arts educators, senior centers, and service organizations to make hooked-rug squares made from newsprint strips of Houston Chronicle news events. Groups like Neighborhood Centers, Inc., and ARTreach came together to create the rug modules and share stories. Nearly 20 groups participated over a sixth-month period. Visitors to HCCC also participated in the rug-making activity at various events, including Museum Experience Day and HANDS-ON HOUSTON. Morton created a floor installation from all of the collected squares by hand weaving strips of the Houston Chronicle into the rug.

The two project components combine to constitute what Morton considers “events, large and small”—the things that make people who they are and shape the lives they lead. While the rug installation acts as a visual condensation of newsworthy events, the quilt captures individual contemplation and commonalities. Former HCCC Curator Elizabeth Kozlowski worked closely with Morton for more than a year to help carry out the artist’s vision. She is thrilled with the results of the project: “Ann’s practice of engaging the community in the art-making process through traditional fiber techniques provides an opportunity for the collective voice of our community to share in the creation of an exhibition and to realize the physical and mental benefits of making.”

"What Happened Today?" is made possible by generous support from the Houston Chronicle.

"The Collective Cover Project"
The social components of "What Happened Today?" are based upon the initial concepts of "The Collective Cover Project." At the beginning of 2009, Morton acquiesced to a fascination with lost items she would see on routine drives between home and any number of familiar destinations. She began specifically collecting soft, fabric-based objects that, to her, seemed uncomfortably out of place in the harsh asphalt and concrete environment of roads and highways. Morton hoped to capture numerous reflections of the collective culture of the times through the accumulation of these discarded objects.

The artist created a "constructed archive" by processing, numbering and photographing a total of 60 found objects and imbuing them with current events from the day they were found. These objects, or Members, as Morton refers to them, were then fitted with a white canvas shroud and a woven QR code that, when scanned with a smart-phone device, connects each object in cyberspace with its constructed history. The shroud fully encases each Member, denying visual access to the full details of the object, unless the viewer chooses to investigate further, through the QR-code tags or through the "Collective Cover" website. If visitors without a smart phone feel unentitled, it is with full intention, in support of the myriad messages evoked by the installation. Although the Members are embedded with knowledge, they silently portray the physical manifestation of a completely homogenized society.

"Ann Morton: What Happened Today?" / "The Collective Cover Project"
September 18, 2015 – January 3, 2016
Front and Main Galleries at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
4848 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002

Opening Reception
Friday, September 18, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
The evening will also feature the opening of "Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project" and open studios by HCCC’s current resident artists.

Artist Talk by Ann Morton
Saturday, September 19, 2:00 PM
at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

About Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is a nonprofit arts organization founded to advance education about the process, product and history of craft. HCCC serves as an important cultural and educational resource for Houston and the Southwest—one of the few venues in the country dedicated exclusively to craft at the highest level. The organization provides exhibition, sales and studio spaces to support the work of local and national artists and offers mission-related educational programs in schools and underserved communities. Visitors enjoy viewing innovative exhibitions, visiting artist studios, strolling through the Craft Garden, creating their own crafts in monthly HANDS-ON HOUSTON events, and shopping for one-of-a-kind gifts and home décor in the Asher Gallery.

Located in the Museum District at 4848 Main Street, HCCC is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, and Sunday, 12 – 5 PM. Summer Hours: Closed Sundays, July 5th – Labor Day. Holidays: Closed Easter, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Admission is free. Free parking is available directly behind the facility, off Rosedale and Travis Street. HCCC is three blocks south of Wheeler Ave. MetroRail station on Main Street.
HCCC is funded in part by grants from The Brown Foundation; Houston Endowment, Inc.; Texas Commission on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Kinder Foundation; the Morgan Foundation; Windgate Charitable Foundation; and the Wortham Foundation.

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is funded by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and is a participant of the Capacity Building Initiative.

For more information, call 713.529.4848 or visit Follow HCCC on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @CraftHouston.

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