ABOVE: Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw
The City of Houston recently announced that Houston native and Lamar High School graduate Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw has been selected as the artist for the civic art that will be in the new Judson Robinson Sr. Community Center, located in the Pleasantville neighborhood.
Dorsey-Outlaw was selected through an open request for qualifications, issued in October 2016, seeking an artist to create a piece reflective of the community for the new community center. The inspiration for her proposal is the iconography of the Sankofa Bird in the tradition of the West African Akan-Ashante (modern Ghana) culture. Sankofa’s literal translation—it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind, teaches that we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. The mural will combine historical, architectural and cultural references of the neighborhood in cast and modeled bas relief and incised clay.
“In the Akan tradition, the Sankofa bird is poised forward, while never taking its eyes from where it came,” said Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw. “It is the centerpiece of this project, which celebrates a community rich with history, and a collective embrace of the future. I am honored to collaborate with the Pleasantville Community to illustrate its ever evolving story.”
Both an artist and educator, Dorsey-Outlaw is known for her colorful and intricate mural installations. She has worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with the Texas Commission on the Arts and with Michelle Barnes’ Community Artists Collective. She designed and fabricated the elements that have made Peggy Park such a spectacular green space that has been highlighted by the Community Artists Collective. Dorsey-Outlaw’s work has also been featured in some Houston Independent School District (HISD) art projects such as at Piney Point Elementary School’s new SPARK Park, and with her refurbishing of some benches at the Hartsfield Elementary SPARK Park. She has done many notable art projects throughout the city.
At the Judson Robinson Sr. Community Center, Dorsey-Outlaw will create a mosaic mural for the facility’s interior lobby space and will host community workshops to create painted tiles that will be prominent features of the mural.
“This original artwork by Marsha Dorsey-Outlaw is a welcome addition to the City’s Art Collection,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “When our artists can bring their incredible talents to our neighborhoods to create new artworks that residents can enjoy on a daily basis, we all win. That Marsha is working closely with the Pleasantville community makes it all the more special.”
The new 12,800 square foot Judson Robinson Sr. Community Center will have a full size gymnasium, a large classroom that can be divided into two rooms, as well as a lobby, kitchen, computer room and storage. Site work improvements will include grading, drainage, detention, landscaping and irrigation, sidewalks, parking lot, refurbishment of the basketball pavilion, a new playground and a football field. The City of Houston’s General Services Department and Houston Arts Alliance will manage the artist’s project.
In 1999, the City of Houston established an ordinance mandating that 1.75% of qualified Capital Improvement Project monies be set aside for civic art. The program is managed by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
For more information about the City’s Cultural Programs go to www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs or follow the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs on Facebook @HoustonMOCA.