Houston Endowment Jones Artist Awards Launches with Inaugural Exhibition Featuring Four Local Creatives

Houston Endowment has announced the launch of the Houston Endowment Jones Artist Awards, a new program created by the Foundation to recognize local emerging artists and reflect the diverse stories and perspectives of Greater Houston’s residents. Jones Artist Award recipients receive individual grants and the opportunity to exhibit their work on a rotating basis in Houston Endowment’s newly constructed headquarters.

Through Weingarten Art Group, Houston Endowment conducted a call for submissions in late 2022. The response from the art community exceeded the organizations’ expectations with over 140 submissions. From the submissions, Houston Endowment chose the nine 2023 Jones Artists who will be included in two group shows and one solo show this year. The Foundation plans to conduct public open calls through Weingarten Art Group for future shows.

Houston Endowment has supported the region’s thriving arts scene since its founding by Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937. The Joneses recognized the significant value arts and culture provided to the community and envisioned the world-class arts that exist in Houston today. At present, the Foundation’s arts and culture work aims to celebrate the diversity of art in Houston and provide residents with abundant opportunities to create and connect. With the creation of the Jones Artist Awards Program, it strives to strengthen the robustness of local arts, and provide additional opportunities for showcasing emerging talent.

“Art is essential to the vibrancy of our city, and it is vital that all artists have ample opportunities to share their unique perspectives,” said Ann Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment. “It’s an immense honor to recognize the outstanding talent of emerging artists and establish the Houston Endowment Jones Artist Awards as an ongoing opportunity to showcase the many unique perspectives that enrich our diverse community.”

The inaugural exhibition entitled Salvation is my heart on display features the work of four artists who present gestures of embrace, images of togetherness, and depictions of people in their homes and places of comfort beyond the harsh lens of the outside world. Using a range of media including photography, painting, ceramics, and printmaking and addressing topics such as racism, colorism, parenting, and the complexities of human interaction, these artists imbue their work with a deep emotional energy, focusing on tender, personal moments of connection that serve as a source of healing and renewal.

Artists and their respective works featured in the exhibit include:

Shavon Morris

With poetic rhythm and a unique approach to printmaking, Framework reveals a fictional story written by the artist exploring the connection between childhood memory, motherhood, and identity. Debossed into leather and unfolding over three panels, the story illustrates what the artist describes as “pursuits toward unattainable levels of purity, goodness, and perfection,” and the cyclical nature of aspiration and regret. The daughter’s tender recollection reflects her mother’s striving to a level of “cleanliness” and virtue – giving voice to gestures that connect one generation to the next. The triptych also addresses societal issues of color favoritism, posing questions around who we are, who we are meant to be, and the forces that shape us.

Shavon, born in Denver, moved from Chicago to Houston in 2014.

Jakayla Monay
Army Dad; A Mother’s Guidance; Paper Planes & Dreams; Breakfast at Denny’s; Golden Baptism (Rebirth); Like Father, Like Son

This powerful series of photographs is the artist’s response to the pervasive negative media coverage that exists nationally around the lives and deaths of black men – a narrative that plays out regularly on a broad scale. In response, the artist chooses to focus her lens on individuals simply “existing and being human,” sharing genuine moments of sincerity and beauty. In her words, Salvation (the title of one of her photo series) is “more than an art exhibit filled with images, Salvation is my heart on display … If these photos have a mission, it is this: capture seldom-viewed perspectives of African American men, specifically, and interestingly present them to stir up unexpected feelings and thoughts in the viewer. [The artist] reimagines the world as a safe and uplifting space for men of color who are often neglected, undervalued, and abandoned.” Themes of self-love and empowerment abound in her work and offer space for beauty, warmth, and compassion.

Jakayla is originally from Houston, where she currently lives and works.

Raul Rene Gonzalez
Sewing With Cecelia (Moment Captured by June), Doing Werk Series; Quality Time (Robert Hodge and Daughter Xara), Artist-Parent Series; Matt Manalo and son looming at the Alief Art House, Artist-Parent Series; Morning Drill Lessons With June, Doing Werk Series

In the artist’s Doing Werk and Artist-Parent series, we are invited into those sweet moments between parent and child, showing the younger generation with boundless joy and curiosity, bolstered along by their parents’ guidance and reassurance – moments that we imagine are deeply cherished by the parents, as we can see in each of their
expressions. These paintings focus intently on the role of fathers, with the revelatory aim of sharing “moments that get left out of most artists’ stories … artists as humans, nurturers, and loved ones.” Images of the artist with his daughters are portrayed as well as those of fellow artists, including Houston’s own Robert Hodge and Matt Manalo, and their respective children.

Raul, originally from Houston, is now based in San Antonio.

Jessica Phillips
Stuck; Tolerances; Mama Mama Mama Mama; The Things We Share

Jessica’s ceramics encapsulate broadly this exhibition’s more universal perspective, namely interconnectedness, through symbolism. She creates groupings of vessels that interact physically, taking on human attributes in the most charming of ways. Often compressed together while still wet, her anthropomorphic forms appear to embrace as in Stuck and Tolerances, to huddle together as in Mama Mama Mama Mama, and to create opportunities for physical conversation, as in the intersection formed in The Things We Share. The artist is interested in how we interact and the emotional energy which that space of connection holds. Those are the moments in which, in the artist’s words, “our minds open and we grow together.”

Jessica, originally from New York, lives and works in Houston.

A second group exhibition, entitled Where is Home, will feature the works of Sneha Bhavsar, Nela Garzon, Lorena Molina, and Marcos Hernandez Chavez. Corey Sherrard Jr. was selected as a solo exhibition artist and will showcase his work, Songbook for Black Constellations.

Salvation is my heart on display will be on display at Houston Endowment’s private headquarters through mid-summer. The public is encouraged to visit for more details and images of the included works.