Hear Our Houston
How is the project operated?
Artist-run. Hear Our Houston is a hub of public generated audio walking tours where all sorts of folks record their thoughts, stories, memories, and knowledge while taking a walk and then upload the audio tour to HearOurHouston.com. Anyone can download the tours for free to their mp3 player, retrace the tour maker’s steps and try on another point of view. These tours are not a list of easily consumable hotspots, from point A to point B. You walk and you discover meaning in details you never noticed and the in-between spaces you wouldn’t have sought to arrive at. Houston is a city of great but hidden richness only truly discovered by experience and word of mouth. In a place where walking is a radical act, Hear Our Houston is excavating our hidden gems, layering meaning into geography, preserving our oral history, and celebrating our common sense of space.
How long has it been in existence?
Since March 2011.
What was your motivation?
Every time I return home to Houston I’m struck by what a hyperbole of capitalism it is. Houston is massive, copy & paste, car-centric, convenient, and amnesiac. Without a street culture you feel like you only access other people when you drive to them and buy something from them. This shell is isolating and kills that city-sense of being one in many. At the same time Houston incubates an international population, thriving pockets of community, amazing do-whatever-you-want businesses and projects, creativity that resonates really loudly against such a sprawling concrete backdrop, and lots of renegade innovation in that hands-off independent spirit that feels essential to this town. So, if you can’t tell, I really love this place while also believing that tackling it for walking, public space, and connecting culture is probably the biggest challenge out of anywhere I know. I mean, Houston makes dérive in Paris look like a cake walk. You can watch video motivation here: http://hearourhouston.com/pages/about/
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
Just me, Carrie Schneider…but with about 50 tour contributors so far.
How are programs funded?
My day job has funded Hear Our Houston with some help along the way from partnering with Project Row Houses, Diverseworks and Writers in the Schools.
What kind of events are usually organized?
We had an opening at Project Row Houses, How-To Make a Tour Workshops, and coming this Spring a series H-Town spelunking dérives.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
The people who submit tours decide which tours are available.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
1. Find community activators to make a tour. Once that happens, word spreads and people listen in. After one key member of Houston’s writing community made a tour, four others submitted and now Hear Our Houston supports creative writing curriculum in both Project Row Houses and Writers in the Schools.
2. Invite people who I like listening to to make a tour. Good storytellers are everything.
3. Find creative folks who will stretch/abuse/mess with the form so the project stays flexible and exciting.
What’s working? What’s not working?
Suggesting that people have an uncommodified experience is unusual, and getting people to walk is HARD. I get asked all the time “Why don’t you make a YouTube video of the audio so people can experience the tour?” Because audio walking tours let you to share a real experience while you listen, not just consume a depiction. I don’t want to chop my home town into bite size QR coded hot-spots, I want you to get a complex portrait of the place along with the people who live there. Walking makes you a tourist in your own city, and while you’re seeking an encounter with the other you’re hearing from their point of view while they control your route, so it has this complicated unravel that I think works well.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
If Hear Our Houston gets folks to experience something outside of their usual work, home, shop triangle, and/or share something magical from their first-hand knowledge inside of this same triangle, I’m a happy camper.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
Here’s a glimpse from Hear Our Houston’s tour wish-list:
Bird Songs Dubbed in English: A Listen in to Houston’s Feathered Friends
Swamplot’s Water Supply
Houston Blues History: Roger Wood
Corporate Mole People: The Downtown Tunnel Cultures
Disco-Zombie-Ghetto-Slow-Jam Groceries: Your Unofficial Guide to Krogers in Houston
Infrastructure Underneath: What You Don’t See That Makes Everything Happen
Wats in the Northwest: Khmer Temples
Third Coast Chopped and Screwed
Texas Medical Center Dissected
Special Ops: Bike Patrol Report
Bellaire Botanica Extravaganza
Houston, We Have a Problem: The Bayou City’s History of Close Encounters & UFO Sitings
Wild Edibles “Scavenger” Hunt and Cook-Off
Houston Storytellers Guild Story-Walk Competition
Memory Walk Storytelling Workshops at retirement communities
John Glenn’s Refugee Reflections