Arts / Galleries

Houston Arts Alliance’s Unique Add On Art Gala Spotlights Some Major Local Talent — Here Are 8 Artists to Know

An Art Collaboration Like No Other

BY // 09.12.23

One of Houston’s most creative, collaborative and one-of-a-kind parties is returning this fall. Houston Arts Alliance’s Add On Art Gala is set to take place on Friday, October 20 at The Warehouse at Silver Street Studios.

As one of Houston’s premier arts organizations, Houston Arts Alliance is no stranger to the power of Houston’s arts community and its leaders. This year’s Add On Art Gala will honor MECA founder Alice Valdez, as well as collecting and volunteering power couple Leigh and Reggie Smith. Couples Craig and Tatiana Massey, and Meredith and Mason Barker will serve as co-chairs. Giving back to the community is at front of mind. Proceeds from the event will benefit artists and arts nonprofits.

What sets this gala apart, however, is not the details of the night itself, but what happens beforehand.

Each Add On Art season, HAA selects a group of artists — some up-and-comers, others local legends — who will each create a work of art in their own medium and style. The day before the gala, patrons and sponsors will join the artists and “add on” to their work in a variety of ways. The resulting masterpieces are unveiled the next night at the event, where they are available for purchase in a special silent auction, creating a once-in-a-lifetime collecting opportunity.

Expect to see a diverse array of subjects, mediums, aesthetics and stories at the 2023 Add On Art Gala. In anticipation of HAA’s illustrious event, we spoke to eight of the 20 featured artists about the piece they are preparing and how it relates to their artistic practice.


Colby Deal

Deal is a Houston-based photographer whose work focuses on underrepresented populations and people of color. Through documentary photography, he aims to build community and strengthen connections to heritage and culture. Deal holds a BFA in photography from The University of Houston, and has been exhibited at the Houston Museum of African American Culture. He was invited to the 2021 Whitney Biennial in New York City and published his first book Beautiful, Still in 2022 with MACK Books.

“In collaboration with the H-E-B team, I invite individuals to share images with me — whether of beloved family members, revered ancestors, or self-portraits,” Deal says. “These images will serve as the foundational elements of our joint art piece. Merging with those I’ve documented from Third Ward, they’ll converge in a collage.

“Rather than merely sitting side by side, these photographs will blend and intertwine, embraced by fabric, echoing the interconnected narratives of our shared stories.”

Delita Martin

Houston artists Delita Martin works in studio.
Houston artists Delita Martin works in studio.

Martin is a mixed-media contemporary artist. She strives to reclaim and retell the stories and identities of Black women through printmaking, drawing, painting, collaging and hand-stitching. Her style combines themes of spiritualism and realism. Based in Huffman, Texas, Martin works as a full-time artist in her studio Black Box Press. She holds an MFA in printmaking from Purdue University and has been featured in exhibitions nationally and internationally, including the 2022 Venice Biennale. 

“Art is important because it holds power, it can change hearts and minds, minds change structure and structures change the quality of life,” Martin says. “It is my mission to continuously share information and educate individuals on the art of printmaking.”

Donkeeboy and Donkeemom

Donkeeboy, Donkeemom (Photo by David “Odiwams” Wright)Photo Aug 23, 4 06 07 PM
Donkeeboy, Donkeemom (Photo by David “Odiwams” Wright)

Alex Roman Jr. and his mother Sylvia Roman make up the iconic duo Donkeeboy and Donkeemom. Primarily working with house paint and spray paint, Donkeeboy specializes in remixing pop art into unique pieces that often consist of double entendres and puns. Together, the two have created more than 30 murals together across multiple cities in the United States and Belize. Donkeeboy — whose name is “a symbolic retort to all the non-believers and naysayers,” as detailed on his website — has been recognized by the US Consulate of Mexico in Houston and won the Houston Mayor’s 2020 Hispanic Heritage Award.

“As we’re working on concepts for our showcase at the Add On Art Gala, we’re envisioning something that represents themes you’ll see in a lot of our mural work.” the Romans note. “Unity, the arts and the City of Houston. They are themes that are close to our hearts no matter what kind of artwork we’re creating.”


Input/Output (Photo by Pam Ashley)
Input/Output (Photo by Pam Ashley)

Alex Ramos and Billy Baccam, the duo behind creative media lab Input/Output, combine technology and art to create projects that are truly innovative. Baccam comes from a tech and engineering background, while Ramos grew up on art and poetry. The two began working together in 2016, and now create what they dub “mixed reality experiences” which blur the lines between the digital and physical worlds.

Their works often involve projection mapping, 3D animation, real-time interactivity, data visualization and hardware design. 

“We plan on layering the digital and physical. We like to explore and experiment with ways technology can interface with physical forms to provide interesting and engaging moments.” —Input/Output

Jonathan Paul Jackson

Jonathan Paul Jackson
Jonathan Paul Jackson

Jonathan Paul Jackson is a Houston-based painter, sculptor and illustrator. Primarily self-taught, he began painting at the age of 11 and curated his first show at age 19. His painting series “Color Meditations” is a color study inspired by the works of Matisse, Warhol and Gauguin. Currently, he is creating a series that involves taking photographs of nature and hand-embellishing the printouts. Jackson consults for Foltz Gallery and has shown in every major city in Texas. 

I am going to have my Add On Art partner take a photo of a flower, and I will embellish the photo,” Jackson says. “My practice is in embellishing photos.”

Luisa Duarte

Luisa Duarte (Photo by Light 42 Studio)
Luisa Duarte (Photo by Light 42 Studio)

Duarte is a Venezuelan-American artist based in Houston. She has been exhibited around the world, including at the Holocaust Museum in Houston, the 2017 Texas Biennial in Austin and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo del Zulia, Maczul in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Duarte is known nationally for her distinctive monotypes and colorful paintings, characterized by sharp-edged geometric shapes that allude to her background in architecture. Her work focuses on themes of identity, fragility and the boundaries between personal and public.

“I am working on a collage made of monotypes on paper,” Durate shares. “It is a collection of fragments, a fictional territory, where the hard stone texture seemed to be captured or trapped by the paper. It also has a structure made of monotypes as well, hovering over the surface, indicating a road to be traveled. 

“This work will be part of an ongoing series talking about territoriality, fragility and borders that I have been working on since 2018. For me, the concept of territoriality encompasses not only the physical aspect of the space, but the emotional part as well. These territories that I create are spaces that work as refuge and solace.

“They are a means to break away from chaos. They become repositories of longings, tributes and secrets.”

Mark Francis

Mark Francis in studio (Photo by Vernique Francis)
Mark Francis in studio (Photo by Vernique Francis)

Francis is a multidisciplinary visual artist and photographer. Through his work, his goal is to encourage others to look past superficiality and truly understand themselves. Francis’ upbringing in the Alief district of Houston informs the themes of ethnic diversity and the dynamism of the Black community that show up in his portraits and photos.

Francis held his first solo exhibition, “YOU ARE ART: A Love Letter To 5th Ward,” which focused on the Black community in Houston’s Ffith Ward at The DeLUXE Theater in August of 2022. Francis is currently a MFA candidate at The University of Houston’s Katherine G. McGovern School of Art. 

“My work for the gala is often a test of new ideas,” he says. “This year won’t be much different. It will be a combination of fun and light with the same thoughtful consideration I put into all of my works. It’s fun to get input from my collaborators as well.

“I’ve taken things from last year and filed them away to incorporate in my studio practice.”

Zsavon Butler

Zsavon Butler (Photo by Nicholas Stuart II)
Zsavon Butler (Photo by Nicholas Stuart II)

Butler is an abstract-figurative artist who creates with mixed media and printmaking. Through her unique works on illustration board and wood, she explores themes of social and cultural events, especially those that impact people of color. Outside of printmaking, Butler produces a handmade ceramic stemware collection called Cultured Stems. Her art has been exhibited at the Texas Southern University Museum of Art and The Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Butler holds a BA in visual media and a minor in studio art from American University. 

“I plan on creating a mixed media piece that explores both historical and contemporary experiences of women,” Butler says. “My work sheds light on the challenges and inequalities faced by women, using societal anecdotes, dreams and mythology to challenge narratives and form conversation.”

Houston Arts Alliance’s Add On Art Gala will take place Friday, October 20 at The Warehouse at Silver Street Studios. For more details, the full artist lineup and tickets, go here.

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