WHAT'S ON JIMMY'S PLATE? (LET'S FIND OUT AS JIMMY CASTILLO CONSERVES ART)
Houston Arts Alliance
It should come as no surprise that Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, is home to one of the largest civic art collections in the country. The City of Houston Municipal Art Collection is comprised of works in all media, from oil on canvas to bronze sculptures to cast glass to yarn to oak log. There’s no limit to the creative mind, and as such, the City’s Collection reflects such creativity. Works of art are placed across the city, reaching from one end to the other. Civic art can be found in all of the usual places you’d expect to see public art, like parks, airports and in downtown, but also in neighborhood libraries and police stations. You can find the works of international heavyweights like Jaume Plensa, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg; as well as the work of Houston-based artists in City facilities, on recycling trucks, and even incorporated into parking meters.
The City conserves these objects through the work of Jimmy Castillo, HAA’s Civic Art + Design Collection Manager. Jimmy works tirelessly on behalf of the City to schedule conservation, and manage those conservation projects – no small task. In an ongoing series, we’re going to take you inside projects on Jimmy’s plate. (And as a special bonus, we’re giving you some insider tips acquired by Jimmy through his field work, on where to grab great grub when you’re in the neighborhood.) First up, we’re going inside the conservation efforts undertaken to help get artworks at Hermann Park’s new McGovern Centennial Gardens ready for visitors.
When Hermann Park Conservancy announced plans for the McGovern Centennial Gardens, the new garden features included the relocation of numerous sculptures throughout the grounds. Jimmy worked with the Hermann Park Conservancy and the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department on the removal of more than 20 bronze sculptures and stone monuments that had been placed throughout the area formerly dedicated to the Garden Center and Rose Garden.
Works removed included sculptures of Confucius, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.; monuments like the “Silver Spike”, a monument to the Chinese Railworkers who helped to complete the second transcontinental railroad; and numerous busts of foreign dignitaries, gifted to the City of Houston by foreign consulates. Each sculpture was carefully documented for condition, prepared for removal by crane (when needed) and transported to an offsite location. Jimmy worked with a team of conservators, art handlers, and stone masons to remove and transport the objects, clean and restore each work, and prepare them for return to the Gardens. Each object was researched to gain further insight into its significance, why it was placed in its specific location, and where it should be placed once the gardens were completed. Jimmy worked with the landscape architects, White Oak Studio, to find resting places for each work that complemented the plans for the new green space, locations in the garden that would introduce the works to visitors and flow with the experience of the landscaping. Upon completion of the Gardens, each object was then repositioned, with a new lease on life. For example, many of the monuments were previously within the “International Sculpture Garden”, an area of the Garden Center which outgrew itself over time and eventually scattered sculpture haphazardly throughout the gardens. Now, each object has been placed with careful attention to its surroundings and to its relation to the other sculptures. The busts have been consolidated along the Hawkins Sculpture Walk, one of the main points of entry for the McGovern Centennial Gardens.
And now for some grub! While working in Hermann Park for the McGovern Centennial Gardens, Jimmy finds numerous Museum District dining destinations to frequent, but his favorite picks: Fine Art + Food Trucks at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Bodegas on Caroline! Both just a short stroll from Hermann Park.
Stay tuned for more conservation and City of Houston Municipal Art Collection projects from Jimmy. On the horizon: restoring one of Houston’s most iconic works, Synchronicity of Color by Margo Sawyer at Discovery Green.