Client: City of Houston, Mayors Office of Cultural Affairs
Location: Houston , TX, United States
Completion date: 2023
Artwork budget: $210,000
Civic Art Program Manager / Commissioner
Houston Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
Project Manager for Design + Installation
Project Management + Administration
Civic Art + Design Division
Houston Arts Alliance
Zainob Amaro and Mathew Usoro
“The Dreamcatcher” is a large mixed-media sculptural work whose inspiration comes from Jesse Lott’s ideas on drawing with sculpture and the nature of dreams. To create this exterior artwork, the artist asked the Sunnyside community for input on imagery and to contribute personal mementos and objects of significance which were incorporated into the sculpture. Because of the artwork’s interplay with light, form, and transparency, the artwork appears to change as viewers’ perspectives change, creating a dream-like, ever-changing experience.
In the artist’s own words upon embarking on this project: “The voices of local residents will help guide the central imagery of the sculpture—whether it’s a sun, a family, or another element that encompasses the spirit of Sunnyside,” said Lott. “The community will also be engaged to source materials that are authentic to the neighborhood for incorporation into “The Dreamcatcher.””
The new Sunnyside Multi-Service Center — a center for improved well-being — has been decades in the making and is the result of earnest advocacy from community members and leaders. This advocacy was met by Houston’s Complete Communities Initiative — a collaborative and transformative effort whose mission is to build one complete city from recovery to resilience by championing the voices of residents that have been ignored for far too long, offering the foundational resources needed to thrive and to collectively overcome economic, environmental, and equity challenges.
“The Dreamcatcher” by Jesse Lott fulfills the goal set by the City and it's desires to affirm that municipal leadership sees and hears the earnest advocacy from the Sunnyside community by its residents, and is responsive to them. This is an important artwork that celebrates and commemorates the community hosting the artwork is created by a much-beloved artist and elder in Houston.
In 2020, the Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) announced its search for artists to develop two permanent, site-specific civic art commissions for the then-forthcoming Sunnyside Health and Multi-Service Center.
Through Houston Arts Alliance, MOCA released the opportunity to artists residing in the Greater Houston Area and oversaw a selection process that prioritized community representation, deep community engagement, and storytelling.
A Houston artist of great distinction, Jesse Lott employed his gift for repurposing found objects into works of art as foundational to his creative practice. In the spirit of the Black Arts Movement, his work involved the social practice of community-building. In creating “The Dreamcatcher,” Lott employed these principles that make him a beloved figure in the Houston art scene as well as in the community. Lott asked community members to donate personal mementos such as pictures, toys, utilitarian objects, and others and wove them into his sculpture.
A central effort to this commission has also been the video documentation by artists Zainob Amao and Mathew Usoro, who have created short films following the evolution of the commissioned works to expand upon storytelling from Sunnyside community members.
MOCA’s announcement of artists awarded contracts to develop art commissions for the Sunnyside Multi-Service Center was among the first to take place after the public release its first-ever Equity Review of Houston’s Civic Art Collection in 2020. The results of this collection survey showed devastating inequities in the history of Houston’s art-commissioning practices and for the lifetime of its Civic Art Program until 2020. Artists of color especially proved to be the most underrepresented group in Houston’s collection per the city’s population demographics. Through new leadership for its Civic Art Program, MOCA has since been able to establish a community-centric vision for commissioning artworks for Houston’s neighborhoods and has underscored new standards for equity and artist-support within the artist-selection processes for art commissions. The completion of Jesse Lott’s “The Dreamcatcher” marks the addition of a significant artwork created by a BIPOC artist and a Texas legend in the art world for Houston’s now 809-object Civic Art Collection.