Hello, Houston!

Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is the city’s designated local arts and culture agency.



Houston Arts Alliance

Ever wanted to put a Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) name to a face? Every month we feature a different member our staff, providing a little insight into who they are and what they do. 

This month the spotlight is on Mat Kubo.

DEPARTMENT: Civic Art + Design

RESPONSIBILITIES: Manages Civic Art projects for the City of Houston’s General Services Department, Houston Airport System, and Houston First Corporation, in addition to privately funded projects.

DEGREES / CERTIFICATES: BFA, Sculpture, University of Hawai’i; MFA, Performance Art + Sculpture, University of Texas at San Antonio

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE ARTS? Visitor Relations at Artpace, San Antonio, Texas.

WHAT IS YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE WORKING IN THE ARTS & CULTURE? Between 2010 and 2015 I taught sculpture classes at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Hawai’i. I’ve served on the board of Contemporary Arts Month, San Antonio for two years.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING AT HOUSTON ARTS ALLIANCE? Meeting, working and engaging directly with artists, contractors, designers and the arts community.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS / ATTRACTIONS / EVENTS IN HOUSTON? Houston Art Car Parade, (and Art Car culture in general), Rudyard’s, The Menil Collection, Discovery Green, Chinatown and Vietnamese town in Bellaire, Box 13 Artspace, The Greater East End, Project Row Houses, Rice University Gallery

FUN FACT ABOUT YOURSELF: In addition to working as a public art administrator, I’m a full-time artist. I’m constantly refining my process. I have a background in sculpture, primarily woodworking and metal fabrication. I moved away from creating tangible sculptural objects for the most part, and now I focus on creating bridges between my work and an undetermined audience. My current array of tools includes typewriters, contact microphones, mixers, karaoke machines, onion skin paper, conversations, found addresses, lost books and leftover records.

IF YOU COULD CLOSE YOUR EYES AND BE ANYWHERE ON EARTH WHEN THEY OPENED, WHERE WOULD YOU BE?  Someplace unrecognizable and entirely unfamiliar. At a certain point in life, most everything reminds you of something else. Every now and then I’m blown away by an entirely new experience while experiencing an immersive work of art. This just happened to me while physically being in Blue, Red and Yellow by Ann Veronica Janssens at Nasher Sculpture Center. The piece immediately changes your sensory perceptions in a very visceral way. To have a similar experience in the natural world (minus the sensory depravation), it would need to be in a place I have never seen or heard ofnot a particular city or landmarkpossibly a room in a house with new company, new textures, new smells and new stories.  

WHAT OTHER LANGUAGES DO YOU KNOW? Enough Japanese to get by (my grandmother speaks to me in Japanese), Spanglish by way of San Antonio, and Hawaiian Pidgin English (or Hawaii Creole English, declared an official language in 2015; this is my first language).

WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE? My sister. She’s not like me at all. But she understands exactly who I am and how I became the person I am. She understands my full context, and though she may not verbalize it, she can emulate me in unspoken nuances and gestures. She also speaks Hawai’i Pidgin English with greater fluidity than I do, and her accent is how I hear the sub dialog in my head.

HAVE YOUR EVER SANG KARAOKE? WHAT'S "YOUR" SONG? I employ karaoke in some of my performances. I’ve spent many nights studying and training at several karaoke bars and rooms in Honolulu. I’ve learned that you need a list, starting with fight songs, then ballads, and always backups of each because others may sing one of your selections throughout the session. It’s also good to dig deep in the books and find other odd songs that fit your vocal range and style. The best karaoke sessions are ones where you can explore forgotten tracks and also riff off of one another, rather than competing. My most recent go-to songs have been “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, and I just rediscovered “When the Going Gets Tough” by Billy Ocean. “Delilah” by Tom Jones is a favorite murder ballad. I go to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC when my throat is blown out, and I have to keep going.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU HEARD OR SAW THAT MADE YOU LAUGH OUT LOUD? A friend told me about their particular “kryptonite” song, that famous Kenny G song that I won’t name here, but I know you can hear it in your head now. This conversation precipitated from a lunch with co-workers in a restaurant that played most of the “Pure Moods” album; that 1997 new age CD sold on TV featuring Enigma, Enya and Deep Forest, Vangelis; all the 90s feel-deep classics. Anyhow, this soundtrack made the lunch way too dramatic and slow motion, and we tried to figure out how we, as a culture, ever allowed that kind of music to be so embraced. We traced it back to Kenny G and his smooth numbing and nullifying jazz. I played that song on the car ride back.