Rice Village to Third Ward: Houston's Story of Emancipation and Gentrification

My name is Claire. Recently, I've joined the team at Houston Tourism Gym.  Let me tell you about my first day on the job.

It all starts with the prestigious Rice University, named after Houston's William Marsh Rice. An estate that exists because of the keen eye of a banker, Rice stands today as home to breathtaking architecture, awe-inspiring public art, and the crowd pleasing Twilight Epiphany, a skyspace by James Turrell. As we walk down the shaded paths of Rice Village, we're engrossed in the new and the old: from the Blue Tile Project, a local effort to preserve Houston's original street signs, to the controversial Cloud Column, one of the latest installations at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts said to imitate the Chicago Bean.

After walking through Rice Village, we take a quick stop for drinks at Winbern Mess Hall. Jovan introduces us to Nathan Chang, who owns the establishment and partnering food trucks, such as Oh My Gogi!

We continue our walk down Alabama Street and find a 3 block long gem called Mid Main of local thrift stores, restaurants, small shops, and live music venues. As we pass by crowds of young and old, we view impressive graffiti art displays that revive a tired neighborhood of Houston. 

Down the road we reach Emancipation Avenue, where the lesson of Houston really begins. We enter a small house that would appear as just another home to a passerby. What we really see is the Gite Gallery, home to incredible displays of African art. Jovan introduces us to the owner and former television journalist Lloyd Gite, who welcomes us with a warm smile and cool personality. Works of famous black musicians, such as Ray Charles, play in the background as we wander through each room, overwhelmingly filled with collections of various African paintings, sculptures, and pieces of jewelry.

We walk further down Emancipation to Project Row Houses, a five block development of shotgun houses in the heart of Third Ward. We initially see plain white houses that will soon become individual displays for the works of local student artists. As we walk, we learn of some of the programs Project Row Houses offers, such as housing and education for young mothers. 

Alongside cracked pavement and overgrown grass are eye catching murals and small art pieces of cement and tile. Among the abandoned buildings and run down signs we notice the modern main building and clean cut grass of Emancipation Park. 

We enter a small corner store known as NuWaters, the community's volunteer run solution to Houston's food deserts. We are greeted by a warm hug from Carmen, one of the store's managers, who lightens our hearts with anecdotes about the store's gardening efforts and community outreach. Surrounded by fresh produce and packaged snacks, we learn about how NuWaters hopes to transition locals to a healthy, organic diet. Next door, we treat ourselves to Crumbville, a local bakery owned by Miss Ella famous for vegan treats and amazing cookie-stuffed cupcakes (the Vanilla Chocolate Pecan cupcake is a taste bud treat that will rock your world).

As we reach the end of our tour, we stop at Axelrad Beer Garden. What was once a local store is now a noteable hangout for college students, young adults, friend groups, and lively Houstonians. We grab drinks and pizza as we enjoy the casual ambiance Axelrad offers through bright colors, swinging hammocks, and laid back music.  

I can't hold in the excitement realizing this is only the first day with Houston Tourism Gym! 

 

 

Claire Muniga