CONSIDERING A FUTURE FOR THE CONCEPT OF THE ARTERY

Huehuetl at the Artery
Huehuetl from Mexico performing at the Artery

The Artery was a place like no other. Its history as a grassroots art and performance center is interesting and virtually unparalleled anywhere. The purpose of this page is not to recount its history, but rather to share ideas about ways that the Artery's unique concepts and resources might be transformed into a new center, utilizing the original model, but being more modern, manageable, maintainable and sustainable in a new location.

Alash Ensemble at the Artery
Alash Ensemble from Mongolia performing at the Artery

Artery Resource
Possibility
The Artery Name
The names "The Artery" and "Artery Media Project" were part of the history and development of the unique art, music and nature center, with "Artery Media Project" being the component that lives on as an archive from the Artery's extensive activities. While a new center may use the model of its mission, operation and potentially even the arrangement of its grounds, it is not known what name the space may ultimately be given. In this document, we are calling the facility "Artery 2".
Residential Lot
The Artery was established on an average-sized residential lot near Houston's Museum District. Artery 2 could exist on a similar property, but would more ideally have two to four times the original land area. It is still not an extravagant property need. In addition to funding, finding a suitable location (or locations) would be a major challenge.

Consider the idea of more than one location. Two locations might be a better operating model. Many times, performers came from as far away as Mongolia and their only performance in Texas was at the Artery in Houston. It was always regrettable that an audience in DFW or at least some other place closer than Denver or Los Angeles could not share the experience and make it more possible for artists to tour. Several excellent possibilities exist around Texas.

Of course, the Artery did not have dedicated parking, and that was a challenge. A parking lot or permission to use nearby parking, along with access to mass transit and bike routes (even offering bike parking, as the Artery did) is necessary.
Converted Residence
The Artery was established in an old house. It was rather small, perhaps 1,200 to 1,300 square feet. Interior walls were removed to create a more open plan. The old structure presented tremendous maintenance problems. Artery 2 could be a modern space with an open floor plan and large windows. Simple design might resemble Mies Van der Rohe's and Philip Johnson's modern style (examples: Farnsworth House, Glass House). The structure could potentially have a roof-top deck, while another significant feature of the roof is rain water collection.
Outdoor Stage
The Artery outdoor stage was approximately 16' x 16'. Because the Artery experience was and should be an intimate experience for the audience, the stage should not increase too much in size, possibly to 20' x 16' to better accommodate dance performances. An obscured back stage area would be helpful for artists and tech needs. That can be accomplished with trees and plants.

The wooden stage deck required annual maintenance - repair and sometimes replacement. While a more permanent stage could be built (possibly with concrete), a soft, removable surface would be needed for some performances. The stage could additionally be covered with a permanent roof, providing better protection for electronics and reducing weather challenges. The Artery stage-area seating accommodated 100-120. Seating may be made more comfortable and increased to serve about 150-200 guests, all in close proximity to the on-stage performers.

The Artery offered no backstage area for performers to rehearse or change outfits. Artists generally changed costumes, particularly for dance performances, in the house and entered the stage from behind the audience area. Artery 2 could meet those needs, while still keeping a close-knit experience for artists and guests.
Video Screen and Lighting
The Artery featured a permanent video screen, built in to the back of the stage. The Artery stage and outdoor surroundings were also lit nearly as professionally as a professional theater environment. The lighting was an impressive feature for the audience experience and for video recording. With a covered stage, a video screen can be retractable and lighting can be protected from rain, with much of it left in place through the season of performances. New design and well-planned facilities can improve on the Artery's lighting, and increase ease of use for sound, light and video technology.
Natural Environment
One of the most significant keys to the Artery's unique atmosphere and success was the natural environment. While Artery 2 can be created in a natural setting, it is highly unlikely that it could ever be the same. The mature trees that towered over the grounds were impressive. They provided a dense canopy of shade and an effective sound barrier, a sort of wilderness zone that felt removed from the surrounding city, and a habitat for wildlife (that mostly came out when the visitors were gone). As they aged, the tall trees were dangerous and also wreaked havoc in large storms, like hurricane Ike.

Artery 2 would be established in a natural setting, but it seems likely that the grounds would have a more "planned" or professionally designed feel, rather than a space that developed over several decades. With excellent design, though, the space could be equally as appealing. For example, building materials may be neutral - brown stained wood, gray building blocks, black painted steel - but the flora can be strategically arranged to provide dynamic colors throughout the year, or changing during different seasons. Greens, yellows, oranges, reds, purples... really stand out against earth tones.

Trees may be selected to maintain a smaller scale to the canopy, possibly keeping a lower profile and more interesting view when seen through the gallery's large windows or from a roof deck. Similar fast-growing plants can be used where barriers and texture are needed, such as bamboo.
Indoor Stage
Just like the Artery, an indoor stage for performances, lectures, panel discussions and small conferences could easily be planned. A screen for films and computer projections can be included. Ease of use with hidden, but accessible equipment and cables can be built into the design.
Gallery/Exhibit Space
The interior space can serve as a gallery or exhibit space. Planning would be required to make the space as multi-functional as possible, but still integral in an elegant design.
Classroom Space
The interior space can also serve as a classroom, possibly offering various classes and workshops for the community on weekdays (considering weekends may mostly be designated for events).
Sculpture Garden
The sculptures that surrounded the Artery were an important part of its atmosphere and character. Though that aspect may not be able to be recreated, the grounds of Artery 2 can still present a permanent or rotating exhibit of sculptures. Some of the Artery's original landscaping materials have been saved and may be used in the sculptural grounds of Artery 2. Or the design may require different materials for aesthetic and safety reasons.
Fire Pit
The fire pit was a popular attraction, particularly during cooler late fall and early spring evenings. A new fire pit and circular seating area can be established on the grounds of Artery 2, though probably with better ventilation and safety in mind.
Water Features
The Artery had several interesting water features, produced by artists over the years. They provided for wildlife and their sound and special lighting added to the art space's ambience. They were difficult to maintain and there were concerns about mosquitoes. Water features may, however, be included in Artery 2 if problems can be minimized, particularly if the water source can demonstrate use of rain water and reuse on the grounds.
Environmental Conservation
Like the Artery, a hallmark of Artery 2 can be ecology and conservation. New technology makes it possible to be much more energy efficient than the old residential structure. Practices like rain water collection may be used to supply a fountain and/or water for plants and trees on the grounds.
Media Project
One of the most valuable and lasting impacts of the Artery is the Artery Media Project. That critical component, the archive of artistic and educational presentation material, makes it imperative that the concept of the Artery be revived. We live in a highly technical world dominated by social media, so media production capability in Artery 2 is important in order to be relevant.

The need for an excellent artistic and social space is equally important. The ability to visit the Artery during a live performance or educational event, and to return to the Artery on another occasion to see recorded media from earlier events in a high-quality theater setting, was an important key to the Artery experience.

One of the Artery's goals, the added bonus of making its recorded productions and archival material available for artists and educators has not been fully explored yet. In planning, Artery 2 can be designed for efficiency and quality in media production, presentation and distribution.
Meeting/Social Center
As noted earlier, the social aspects of spaces like the Artery in an overly immersive social media world is critical. Artery 2 would serve as an important natural space for art and music lovers to escape from social media addiction and join others for real social activities in support of creativity and innovation.
Food/Beverage Service
Where the Artery served drinks from under a tent canopy (which doubled as the entry donation station), and food for receptions was often set up in the open area of the house, more permanent and ready-to-go covered stations can be planned. Several ready-to-use vending spaces are needed, in addition to food storage and preparation space.

A kitchen area may also be part of the plan, but likely, for practical reasons, guests would not enter through the kitchen that existed in the Artery. It might even make sense for the kitchen to be in a separate structure, which is described below.
Guest Housing
One of the unique aspects of the Artery was not widely known. After performances ended, the space was converted back to a living quarters, where musicians from other cities and countries sometimes stayed. Artery 2 could have a separate building with an assortment of dormitory-style rooms (possibly five rooms to host 40-50 guest) to serve as an international hostel. It would house not only guest performers, but also visitors to the city.

Certainly, the type of visitors who are seeking the most rewarding and special kinds of experiences from their travel would enjoy a facility like Artery 2 and the convenience of an on-site hostel. Like most hostels, the facility would include a guest kitchen, which would surely be as sociable and creative as the original one at the Artery. The hostel might also provide a valuable economic function by generating funds for operating support and by providing staff for better property security.
Innovations
While the Artery can never be recreated, it can be honored with an institution that uses a similar model. And, though the stages of its development over several decades that made the Artery so unique cannot be replicated, Artery 2 can be as creative and innovative as the original. Potentially, performances, lectures or other activities could be provided live to internet audiences around the world. Series could be planned and produced for radio and television. The possibilities are endless.
Unique sculptures on the Artery grounds
Unique architectural and sculptural features covered the Artery grounds

View a site concept sketch.


Contact: For now, a formal contact or group page has not been established. Since the page is hosted on the DSRC's Imagine a Museum website, this page will also be shared on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/imagineamuseum, where comments can be posted.


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