Kinfolk House’s entry to social practice art is meant to investigate community, culture, and isolation in the venue’s neighborhood of Polytechnic Heights and beyond in Fort Worth.
NORTH TEXAS—Earlier this year, decorated Fort Worth artists Sedrick and Letitia Huckaby opened an art space called Kinfolk House in what was once the home of Sedrick’s grandmother, Hallie Beatrice Carpenter. The first project, installed at the 122-year-old house in March 2022, was titled after her maiden name—Welcome—and featured work by the founders. Letitia’s photographs of nearby landscapes printed on fabric traced family paths; Sedrick’s paintings and sculptures placed images of their loved ones in a sacred interior of personal history.
If Welcome was an invocation, the summer project Congregate is an invitation. Kinfolk House’s entry to social practice art is meant to investigate the nuances of “community, culture, and isolation” in the venue’s Fort Worth neighborhood of Polytechnic Heights and beyond. Executive director Jessica Fuentes says the plan for the second project was always to celebrate reunion after the first waves of the pandemic left residents walled off from one another and from experiences with art.
“Our greatest dream for this project is that everyone who visits will be moved by the work,” Fuentes says. “For local communities of color, we want them to feel seen and represented in the works on the walls at Kinfolk House. For others, we want to provide a window for them to see and consider and appreciate experiences different from their own. And, perhaps, an overarching, consistent goal is that the space will be one for gathering, discussing, and growing.”
The prompts for Congregate allowed lots of room for three artists with distinct approaches to community. Angela Faz of Dallas, Colby Deal of Houston, and Skip Hill of Tulsa, Oklahoma met questions that appear often in their respective processes:
What makes a community? Is it bound by physical borders, unique experiences, common values?
What happens when a community is lost, removed, or abandoned?
What are the joys and the struggles of being a part of a community and/or trying to keep one together?
How might being a part of a community inform or change who we are as individuals?
“The greatest fear for this neighborhood is gentrification,” longtime Polytechnic Heights resident Reba Henry wrote last year in an essay for the Fort Worth Report. Faz, who uses they/them pronouns, recognized Henry’s words as the artist researched the neighborhood for Congregate.
Known mostly as a printmaker, Faz is the local artist participating in Congregate. They testified to a mass eviction in West Dallas as part of Decolonize Dallas in 2017. Faz began to notice a dismissive attitude among people who move into newly gentrified neighborhoods—an attitude that sharply counters the anxiety of community members on the brink of losing businesses and homes they’d nurtured for decades. “Well, there was nothing here,” seemed to be the line of passive gentrifiers.
How, then, to elevate the thriving culture of a community before development arrives? Faz decided to map out establishments like Black Coffee and Tacos Don Miguel owned by Black and Latinx residents of Polytechnic Heights and “go beyond documentation and extractive models of art for consumption to create a body of work that is an invitation to connect with the local community.” They photographed business owners and crafted large wood-cuts of their likenesses. In the tradition of Gráfica Popular, Faz wanted to reach a wide audience with material that suited the truest creators of a neighborhood.
“Honor the worker. Honor the person in a life-size portrait because they’re often in the background,” Faz says.
Deal’s striking photography and Hill’s vivid mixed-media collage for Congregate also employ portraiture, expanding the scope of the show beyond the neighborhood yet urging patrons to look for the neighbors anywhere they go.
Faz hopes visitors will explore what’s nearby via those takeaway maps after viewing the art across mediums at Kinfolk House. Baked into their plan is a summoning of the business leaders whose faces appear on the walls of the space; Faz hopes they’ll meet one another and link up for the future.
Kinfolk House’s Fuentes has similar hopes for the artists invited to Kinfolk House. One of the founders’ goals is to facilitate connections between artists across mediums who show their work together for the first time.
“Though our first project featured work by the Huckabys, our plan has always been that moving forward we would work with a national artist, a regional artist, and a local artist for each project,” says Fuentes. “The idea is that we’re engaging with and supporting North Texas artists while also putting them in conversation with artists working throughout Texas and beyond.”
Congregate is scheduled to remain on display through July 30, 2022, at Kinfolk House, 1913 Wallace Street in Fort Worth, Texas.