The CERF+ board and staff spent three inspiring days in Houston, Texas, in October for the organization’s annual meeting. Before the board meeting, the group spent a day getting acquainted with the cultural community of Houston by visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s (MFAH’s) world-class conservation lab led by Steven Pine, who also heads up the Texas Collections Emergency Response Alliance (TX-CERA). From there we toured the museum’s expansive craft collection with Cindi Strauss and Anna Walker, curator and assistant curator, respectively, of Decorative Arts, Craft & Design. We also got a preview of the exhibition Beatriz González: A Retrospective. From the MFAH, we made the short walk to the Glassell School of Art, the teaching institute of the MFAH, to visit with longtime instructor (jewelry) and associate dean of student activities, Sandie Zilker. Sandie described the school’s many offerings, including its studio-art courses and distinguished Core Residency Program for postgraduate artists and critics. After a deep and delicious dive into Southern cuisine at Lucille’s, we visited Project Row Houses, an extraordinary cultural community that enriches lives through art with an emphasis on cultural identity and its impact on the urban landscape. We ended the day with a studio visit to metalsmith and Get Ready grant recipient Heidi Gerstacker, who spoke to us about her latest work and the importance of studio safety for metalsmiths.
Our annual meeting took place at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, where CERF+ board member Perry Price serves as executive director. Over two days, we covered a lot of ground, which included a review of CERF+’s just-completed fiscal year and a forecast of the year ahead. We also welcomed and oriented four new board members, Jono Anzalone, Malene Barnett, Bob Booker, and Jaime Suárez, and bid fond farewells to long-serving board members Eddie Bernard and Sylvie Rosenthal. Over a lunchtime gathering, we learned more about the cultural community and the challenges and opportunities the city faces with climate change and its effects on vulnerable populations from cultural leaders: Michelle Barnes, executive director of the Community Artists’ Collective; Ann Graham, executive director of Texans for the Arts; Lauren Hainley, program manager of disaster services at the Houston Arts Alliance; and Deborah McNulty, director of the Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA). “We are so thankful for our many friends and partners in Houston,” notes CERF+ board chair, Reed McMillan. “Our time there highlighted the importance of building strong connections between CERF+’s programs with similar efforts in local communities. Together we are building a stronger safety net for artists.”