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[[image - photograph]]
ABOVE One of three exhibition areas in the Lawndale Annex, a converted cable factory where the University of Houston now holds its studio art classes.

[[image - painting]]
LEFT Bon Camblin, Self-Portrait, 1980, watercolor, 29 by 23 inches.

the community. So far, the annex has staged exhibitions such as a show of contemporary art from neighboring Louisiana and of women artists from Austin. However, along with other artists, Surls is now discussing the formation of an independent Houston art center to house artists' services as well as alternative exhibitions. "The institutions cannot possibly cover all of the territory," he says. "Even if they are operating at 100 percent efficiency, there will still be spillover. Rather than dismiss the energy or render it useless, an art center would provide a place of artistic phenomena to happen. It would allow artists to make cross-references." 

The art-center idea, still in its fledgling stages, represents on the new directions for Houston art in the '80s. As the city's more established institutions seem to withdraw into a narrow professionalism, new groups are emerging to catch the Surls calls "spillover" 

In the late '70s, two broad-scaled civic enterprises were launched, which reflect the expansion of the Houston's art audience. In 1977 the Houston City Council created the Cultural Arts Council, the only such body in any Texas City. Designed to dispense tax funds to Houston's visual and preforming arts institutions, CACH now allocates 75 percent of its tax money, from a hotel-motel tax, to the city's largest cultural institutions, including the MFA and the CAM. In its current form, the CACH which is the outgrowth of a Chamber of Commerce committee that is now Houstons's Business Committee for the Arts. does not provide grants to individuals artists or directly provide services to the city's artists. However, there is now interest in legislations that would permit funding of such projects though tax money. 

Closely allied to the CACH is the Houston Festival, an annual downtown art festival also generated by the Chamber of Commerce. In the last few years, the festival's ambitions have grown and it now aims for international recognition. While it has recently been criticized by more activist artists for its interlocking leadership with the CACH and its exploration of art for commerce, the Houston Festival last year sponsored or commissioned a number of major sculptural works, including an environmental scaffolding work across the face of the Houston Public Library by local artist Melvin Ziegler. 

In other areas, the 1970s saw the emergence of artist's advocacy groups ush as Artists Equity and Women's Caucus for Art. The Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts has also developed as an important resource for the art community and as a bridge between it and the city's growing population of young professionals. Also, the College Art Association's Mid-American Conference was held in Houston for the first time last October. 

While the Houston's art scene doesn't yet rank as the nation's forth most active to match the city's new populations standing, there are recent developments that can lead it beyond the boom of the '70s. The stage has been set and the characters cast. In the 1980s the real drama of an active art community will, hopefully, by playing in Houston.
 
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