Shrimp Boat Projects
Open Hours: Our hours vary from day to day. Interested persons should contact us to set up a visit.How is the project operated? For-profit, nonprofit, artist-run, etc.
Shrimp Boat Projects is an artist-led initiative, fully conceived, developed and operated by partners Eric Leshinsky and Zach Moser. The project is operated in two parts. As Artists-in-Residence [at the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts], we are organizing classes and events dealing with regional cultural identity for the Houston area, theories of place in art production, and working toward synthesizing the competing interests of ecology, economy, and culture. The second component of the project is the process of becoming commercial shrimpers. Towards this end, we have purchased and overhauled a shrimp boat, are currently learning how to shrimp, and are beginning to market our shrimp in a variety of ways.
How long has it been in existence?
The project was conceived in 2005 and began in earnest in January, 2011.
What was your motivation?
The earliest motivation was the image of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We struggled to find a productive means of understanding the Gulf Coast outside of the spectre of disaster. We came to see Shrimp Boats as not just an icon of the Gulf Coast but the profession of bay shrimping as a way of working that was both intimately connected to place and at the nexus of many prominent socio-economic themes, from globalization to tourism to sustainability, to name a few. Ultimately, the project found its focus on Houston and the challenge of understanding Houston’s identity through its unique relationship with its native landscape. We came to see the practice of bay shrimping in the Houston region as a means to better understanding the identity of this place, and a means to resolving the tensions between ecology, economy, and culture that define this place. As perhaps the last way of working in this region that is intimately connected to the native landscape, we believe that bay shrimping offers a knowledge of this region that cannot be found anywhere else.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
How are programs funded? (membership fees, public funding, sponsors, etc.)
We are currently supported for 2011 as Artists-in-Residence at the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. After this year we are looking to fund our programs through a combination on shrimping revenues and philanthropy.
Who is responsible for the programming? (Curators, Directors, etc.)
The programming is conceived and developed by the two partners in Shrimp Boat Projects, Eric and Zach. Many of the programs are in collaboration with the Mitchell Center for the Arts.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We organized two events this past spring, three more scheduled for the coming fall and right now one scheduled for next spring. These are one-day-only public events–not exhibitions–that engage the issues and themes we encounter in our project.
What kind of events are usually organized?
The events we have planned include lectures, film screenings, cook-offs, parades, readings, and panel discussions.
How is your programming determined?
All programs are designed by the two partners in Shrimp Boat Projects, we then look for collaborating organizations to help us facilitate the programs.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
We have a program called the Regional Artist Exchange that allows artists, writers, designers and others interested to participate in our project by joining us in working on the shrimp boat for our daily expeditions. From this experience, each participant has the opportunity to submit a project proposal for a research-based art work that stems from his/her experience working with us on Galveston Bay. We are planning to select 10 of these proposals to help facilitate for inclusion in a future exhibition. Although the program is currently on hold until we finish some necessary improvements to our boat, we expect to host a number of participants this Fall.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We hope that Shrimp Boat Projects builds on a legacy of dynamic art practices that have crossed disciplinary boundaries and found value in fields of research outside of art. Although the project is very much about creating new art works from the platform of our bay shrimp boat and the experience of working on this boat, the project is equally about creating value for as broad an audience as possible. Above all, we would like the work that comes from this project to have some consequence to the place in which we are working and meaning to the variety of people who live here.
What’s working? What’s not working?
This is multi-faceted project which means we are doing many things at once: restoring a commercial shrimp boat, teaching classes at the University of Houston’s Interdisciplinary Arts program, organizing public events and sharing the project with a larger community in other ways such as through our website. Maintaining this balance of activities is an ongoing challenge. Until recently, the boat restoration really dominated our schedule and made it difficult to insure that the project was properly represented. But with the bulk of the restoration behind us, and as we begin to start actively shrimping, the project is really starting to take shape and we’re excited to put more time into sharing the project with the larger public.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We believe our project is well-grounded in the Houston region. It is about this place and its success depends on an active engagement with this place. This kind of practice or ethic is really what can offer to the local art scene. Artists do projects about Houston all the time but they rarely have the time to fully engage with this place in a way that can lead to more complex and productive understandings of what shapes this unique region.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We are really excited to learn how to catch shrimp in Galveston Bay and share this experience with as many people as possible.
Images courtesy of Shrimp Boat Projects.