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Volume 69, Issue 18, Thursday, September 18, 2003


Artists find home in Third Ward

Southmore House offers up an eclectic mix of local art

By Colleen Morgan
The Daily Cougar

Art may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Third Ward, but the Southmore House is trying to change that.

"Southmore House is a local art gallery, using the word 'art' very loosely," said Southmore House founder and philosophy senior Dave Roy.

This laid-back outlook on art is apparent in every aspect of the Southmore House, located at 3107 Leeland St., from the colorful graffiti at the entrance to the giant stuffed catfish peeking over the edge of a canoe that hangs from the ceiling. Once inside, one never knows what to expect.

Philosophy senior Dave Roy is the driving force behind Southmore House, a local artist's haven in Third Ward that serves as both a performance space and an exhibit hall. Roy said the goal is to give artists an avenue to express themselves.

Manuel Rearte/The Daily Cougar

The gallery is an ever-changing array of art in every form imaginable. Sometimes a painter's exhibit adorns the walls, while other times a crowd gathers for a local musician's live recording session.

Currently, a table decked out with crayons and paper calls visitors to create their own art in the "Color Kaleidoscope Art Show." The drawings created are displayed on the walls along with local artists' work. Each original piece can be bought for $1.

"The Southmore House is anything you want it to be," said Skye Shrum, a volunteer and spokesperson for the gallery. "It's a creative outlet no matter what you're into. We accept anything with a hint of art."

That's what Roy set out to do when he made his New Year's resolution in February 2000. After returning from his cross-country travels, Roy came back to Houston looking for a society that was accepting of him. From this search stemmed the Southmore House.

"People told me I couldn't open a gallery in the middle of Third Ward, but I thought there has to be a place," Roy said.

The atmosphere alone is enough to bring visitors back again. Roy is usually present at most events, greeting those he knows with smiles and hugs and making an effort to welcome anyone new. He encourages all patrons to make themselves comfortable and to participate in whatever artistic expression is taking place.

"What makes me different is I get to know my clientele on a personal level," Roy said, "I know everyone's name. That's the kind of clientele I want."

Southmore House is funded through various streams of income. Aside from the art exhibits and recording sessions, the gallery hosts acting workshops and poetry and prose readings. There are plans to run a haunted house at Highway 6 and Highway 290.

"A typical night at the Southmore House would cost about $5," said Roy, "But the barter system is definitely in effect. If someone wants to see the art and can't afford it, we work with them."

Although Southmore House is not officially a non-profit organization, Roy wants patrons to rest assured that all money contributed to the house is put to good use.

"Any money we make in the house goes back to the house," said Roy. "We want to add to the experience instead of our pocketbooks."

Southmore House also hosts events and meetings for many Houston artistic groups, including the Heinrich Lagerburger Society, a UH-based creative writing group.

HLS began as a group of about six UH creative writing students who met to discuss and critique each other's poetry and prose. As the group grew, they realized the need for a new space to meet.

"We needed a central location to accommodate our group's size and our late-evening meeting times," said Krystal Solcich, senior English major and co-founder of HLS.

"When we started having scheduling conflicts with our original meeting space, Dave offered us a space at Southmore," said Anne Billingsley, also a senior English major and HLS co-founder.

The gallery also rents studio spaces to local artists.

"The Southmore House provided a place for me to contribute to. I saw it as an opportunity to express myself," said Greg Edmonds, a self-described conceptual artist and studio tenant at Southmore House.

"In its most basic form, it's an avenue of expression for poets and artists," Edmond said. "But Southmore House is a lot of different things to ... different people."

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