Community Partnership | Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) and Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy (HFTC) are partnering to create artistic activations through artist residency programs, research fellowships, and exhibitions with the mission to share and honor the story of Houston’s Fourth Ward and to establish creative opportunities informed by its legacy and community stakeholders.
In 2016, a Houston Mayoral Task Force created HFTC to preserve Freedmen’s Town—a neighborhood established in 1865 by over 1,000 formerly enslaved people—now recognized as Houston’s first Heritage District. Described as “the crown jewel of the Emancipation Trail,” Freedmen’s Town Heritage District is a primary Black cultural landmark that includes seven sites recognized by the UNESCO Routes of Enslaved Peoples project. HFTC’s role is to “Tell the Story of Freedom” by protecting and preserving Freedmen’s Town, and by educating and engaging visitors from around the world about the unique history of this largely untold chapter of Houston’s and America’s past. In physical and virtual form, HFTC is making Freedmen’s Town accessible to the world.
Beginning in Fall 2020, HFTC and CAMH began a programmatic and value-based discussion which led to a formal programming partnership. The two organizations are working together around a shared, artist-centered vision to create and implement a multi-year arts and culture plan rooted in community engagement and empowerment. Together, this project is based on the shared belief that arts and culture is an essential catalyst for change.
We believe the conservation and activation of Freedmen’s Town is an American story that deserves broader recognition, both for its historic importance and for the enduring need to celebrate and protect the essential contributions and value of Black life and culture in the United States. Our hope is to position artists in service of the effort to achieve true recognition for Freedmen’s Town. Artists bring unique insights into cultural legacies and history, and can ignite wonder in unexpected ways. With this in mind, the partnership aims to engage and embed artists in HFTC’s strategic plan to amplify their goals and public outreach.
Both HFTC and CAMH recognize that this partnership is an incredible opportunity to share resources and build capacity for both organizations and for HFTC to gain operational support and know-how in programming art engagements and activations.
CAMHLAB at Freedmen’s Town
CAMHLAB at Freedmen’s Town is an onsite artist-in-residency program that aims to highlight, honor, and animate the histories and stories of Freedmen’s Town. Through month-long residencies, the program aims to generate research, contextualize, and connect artists and the general public to the stories of Freedmen’s Town.
Additional Information and Updates
If you have any questions about the project, we would love to hear from you! Please contact Seba R. Suber, Deputy Director of CAMH, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freedmen’s Town Residents
If you are a resident of Freedmen’s Town and are looking for information on stakeholder meetings or upcoming skillshare workshops, visit the link below.
Charonda Johnson is the Engagement Manager for HFTC x CAMH. She also holds roles as the Community Liaison and Vice President of both Houston Freedmen’s Town Association and Preservation Coalition; she is also the President of the Fourth Ward Health and Educational Center. She has developed and maintained relationships with the local community, nonprofits, churches, and businesses since 2013, launching and managing several programs such as after-school programs, summer camps, STEM innovation labs, and culture experience tours for Freedmen’s Town. She spends her free time cooking and reading.
Mich Stevenson is a Houston-based artist and creative entrepreneur working as Project Manager for HFTC x CAMH. Stevenson’s expertise spans several fields, including sculpture, outdoor product design, manufacturing, community organizing, and project management. His creative practice utilizes public art, site-specific installations, technical drawing, design, photography, and writing. His sculptural works were featured in Ruby City’s presentation of the 2021 Texas Biennial, Houston Airport Systems’ permanent collection of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and Project Row Houses.
Freedmen’s Town Fellows
Nate Edwards is the 2023 Freedmen’s Town Film Documentarian. He is also a Houston-native multidisciplinary artist whose first love is filmmaking. His work can be described as “magical realism,” specializing in short form content through projects with artists including Pharrell Williams, Scoot Mcnary, Doja Cat, Tobe Nwigwe, Summer Walker, Bryson Tiller, and Mereba along with platforms such as The Jimmy Kimmel Show, Amazon Music, Google, Hyundai, Spotify, REI, and YouTube. Edwards’ work spans productions across the spectrum from travel documentaries to live-action samurai short films. He finds joy in finding new ways and tools to tell stories as a genre-bending artist. With a love for narrative storytelling, Edwards is currently turning more of his focus to film and television, currently in pre-production for his directorial debut, She Taught Love, starring Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
Amarie Gipson is the 2023 Lead Freedmen’s Town Research Fellow. She is also a Houston-born art worker, writer, and creative entrepreneur. Gipson has held curatorial positions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Renaissance Society (Chicago), The Contemporary Austin, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Independently, her writing has been published in several journals and magazines such as Artforum, ARTNews, ARTS.BLACK, Cite, ESSENCE, Gulf Coast, MUD, and THE SEEN. She created an open format dance party and community called PHYSICAL THERAPY, where she serves as creative director and resident DJ. She is also the former Arts & Culture editor of Houstonia Magazine, where she worked to bring much needed attention to Houston’s art scene. With nearly a decade of experience in the realms of fine art, music and media, Gipson built The Reading Room with a desire to share her deep passion for Black culture. It is a culmination of her professional experience and a labor of love.