Gone are the days when school would let out, and the city looked to Free Press Summer Fest to kick off the summer or when Day for Night provided a “hyper-sensorial” experience just in time to close out the year.
Enter Kaleidoscope Houston’s immersive experience, Houstonary.
One of the best aspects of Houstonary 2019 “Cyberpunk City” was the future it portrayed.
There were striking visuals featuring neon-lit settings surrounded by fog, giant cube-like structures with aerialists pushing physical limitations throughout the evening, infectious synth soundscapes and flashes of iridescent foil on spandex fabric — all that was missing were flying cars.
Kaleidoscope Houston produced Houstonary 2019 “CyberPunk City” at the Harrisburg Arts Museum, located in Houston’s East End, last Friday with not only visual art but also film, music and fashion. A portion of ticket sales benefitted Fresh Arts, a local non-profit organization dedicated to supporting emerging artists ditch stereotypes that might hinder their future.
“This was our first year [to donate a portion of ticket sales to Fresh Arts],” said Pamela Andino, founder and creative director of Kaleidoscope Houston. “There was an opportunity to do so, and Fresh Arts was excited to be a part of [Houstonary 2019] where a lot of their board members or [artists] who have received grants from them [Fresh Arts] are a part of that neighborhood. It reflected what they [Fresh Arts] do, and we support it.”
In its fourth year, Houstonary 2019 was unlike any other for various reasons: from having Ky Meyer, host of Musik Houston TV, a cable-free creative news channel, and media director for Kaleidoscope Houston to coordinating with Critical Mass and Clutch City Cruisers to bring in hundreds of bicycle enthusiasts along with the unveiling of Slim Thug’s 36-inch, gold-plated ‘Big Sixxer’ custom cruiser built by Houston’s own Off Road Peddler bike shop. The local rapper told Meyer that he “can’t wait to hit a block on it.”
“Every year, Kaleidoscope grows and is always a fusion of art, film, musik and fashion, but… it was so much more of an immersive experience because we were able to bring in the digital aspect of it,” Andino explained.
In selecting this year’s theme, Andino looked to fashion and what’s to come.
“The way that I like to work because I’m very fashion-oriented, I’m a year ahead of looking at fashion trends, with what is [going on] in Paris and New York, so we’re leading the year with what’s going to be shown next,” Andino explained.
In January, Andino said she realized that Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film “Blade Runner” was set in the year 2019.
“It all goes together; fashion inspires music, inspires film and vice versa. When I looked at the future [of fashion and style], cyberpunk is it,” she said.
Each Houstonary has been held at different venues around the Bayou City. Andino said they liked the rawness of the Harrisburg Arts Museum, which is why they were able to seamlessly create and design a CyberPunk feeling of what an underground artist curation would be.
“We thought about what it could be like if we took it over,” Andino said. “We literally brought power; there’s no electricity, no water, there’s nothing there, and we decided to create a mini city. How would it look if you were in the middle of a city and [you] powered it? That’s why the space was perfect.”
Guests told Andino and Meyer that the foggy and misty weather left an interesting visual effect on the ground, saying it resembled “old school movies where the [streets] are wet, and no one knows why.”
Those who work in television and film know that by bringing attention to a scene otherwise known as a wet-down is one that explicitly makes the asphalt more visible to not only brighten the action in the frame but also because it merely films better when lights reflect against black pavement.
While each performance was planned out, there weren’t set times for each act or the runway portion of the evening. Andino stated the reason for doing that was for it to be an “ongoing, all-night experience.”
Futuristic city-goers were treated to musical performances by Gio Chamba and Coffee Guzman, a vibrant duo who engaged the crowd not only with their explosive stage presence and energy but also rock and electro-cumbia sounds. There was also a combination of street dance and classical music from Fly Dance Company, powerful words from poet Outspoken Bean, and break-dancers from BGirl City, an organization pushing boundaries in a male-dominated form of entertainment. Ending the evening were dance-rock Swimwear Department, whose lyrics are about swimming pools and shopping malls, .
Orlando Herrera and Kyndall Bollmeyer were the featured designers this year. A recent Houston Community College (HCC) graduate, Bollmeyer showed her latest designs inspired by female empowerment. She stated each look was a “progression of tearing down the walls of limitation.”
Throughout the venue — and outside at the curated market with local vintage collectors and food trucks galore — art installations and mini pop-up shops gave city-goers the opportunity to interact with the featured artists, including Alexandra Lechin, Bekit, who created the Kaleidoscope head placed at the entrance to “CyberPunk City,” Daniel Anguilu (HAM’s curator), Jammie Hawkins, Jesse de Leon, whose wood-painted designs spelled out “HTX,” Laws Crew, Mark de Leon, Narciso Palma, Nicholas R. Simien, Rose Tylinski, Sayra Vallejo, Weston Porter and a digital photography installation by Violeta Alvarez.
Another first for Houstonary was Musik Houston TV broadcasting live as they investigated what the future of Houston’s creative scene looks like.
“[Attendees] were given the opportunity to explore and do things their way knowing full well that we had more surprises coming up for [them] which is where the countdowns on the Cyber Cube [came into play],” explained Meyer.
In the center of the mega-city, performers also faced a new, immersive experience rather than a traditional stage-like setting with LED screens behind them.
“We wanted to make sure every person involved from our team to the performers and the crowd felt some way about this type of city of the future,” Meyer said.
Originally from the West Coast, both Andino and Meyer are “all about the arts.” Meyer told Byline Houston that because the two “underground creative queens,” a nickname they jokingly gave themselves, are pushing the city’s underground creative scene and “recognize the uniqueness of where the artistry [in Houston] is headed,” many think they’re native Houstonians.
“We recognize the fact that we need more [solid] platforms to help put on for creatives,” Meyer said. “Our goal was not only to build a showcase but [also] put on a showcase for creatives and inspire them that Houston has what it takes to be the creative city of the future.”
The former CW39 NewsFix entertainment anchor and reporter, Meyer has covered the local creative industry for years. Like any great reporter, Meyer has put in the time to pay attention to the needs of the city and all the transitions taking place.
“There’s a lot of awesome changes that have happened within our creative scene in the past couple of years, even with the transition of Byline Houston; it’s all very exciting [that Houston can witness] new [initiatives] being born,” she said.
While the entire evening was exhilarating and very different than anything Houston has seen before, Andino and Meyer co-producing Houstonary 2019 was a highlight worth acknowledging. It was important to them that they presented themselves as women trying to build a platform for female creatives in Houston. Their message: “We’re doing this in a man’s world. We’re up against men in every aspect, and we made it happen.”
“What’s cool about this creative process […] is that [when] you get the right people around you, with the same mission,” said Meyer.
“Magic happens,” said Andino, completing Meyer’s sentence.
Andino continued with how professional the Kaleidoscope Houston team is, and even with all the logistics surrounding the invasion of CyberPunk City, she felt “the grit and energy gave off the feeling of what a city of artists looks like, and that’s what it came to be.”
There was a summer kick-off music festival, an end of year music festival, but Houston was missing a festival to kick off each new year, and it’s safe to say we found it all because Kaleidoscope Houston fulfilled its purpose of changing the state of modern festivals with their annual Houstonary.