Hurricane Harvey redux: Art inspired by storm will “Flow” through downtown park

Buffalo Bayou’s banks become canvas for Hunter’s newest piece Nov. 9

Over two years have passed since Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, but as memories of the storm fade, Rice University Artist-In-Residence Allison Hunter is looking to revive them with her newest work.

VADA professor Allison Hunter spent this summer testing her new project, "Flow," at Sesquicentennial Park. (Photos courtesy of Allison Hunter)

VADA professor Allison Hunter spent this summer testing her new project, “Flow,” at Sesquicentennial Park. (Photos courtesy of Allison Hunter)

Flow” is an outdoor public multi-video project commissioned by Aurora Picture Show and designed for downtown’s Sesquicentennial Park, where it will be shown Nov. 9 in two 20-minute performances at 7 and 9 p.m.

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Shepherd School of Music.

“I thought there was an urgent need to call awareness to the lack of preparation that we’ve been doing as far as a city,” said Hunter, full-time faculty in the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts and a visual artist who has worked in photography, video, drawing, sculpture and installation for the past 25 years — the last 15 of which she’s spent in Houston. Although she survived Harvey with her home intact, “the worst part was knowing that I couldn’t help abandoned animals,” she said.

Since then, she’s become active with an animal rescue organization that helps during disasters and has worked on large-scale public art projects such as “Flow” to bring attention to Houston’s long, tempestuous relationship with flooding.

“I thought there was an urgent need to call awareness to the lack of preparation that we've been doing as far as a city,” said Hunter.

“I thought there was an urgent need to call awareness to the lack of preparation that we’ve been doing as far as a city,” said Hunter.

“Flow” also represents one of Hunter’s first collaborations with other artists.

She knew Loff, the soprano, from her work with the Houston Grand Opera. And Hunter, who teaches four courses at Rice each year, had recently taught a course on experimental sound and video along with Kurt Stallmann, professor of composition and theory at the Shepherd School. She asked Stallman if he knew anyone who’d be a good fit for a new video project and he recommended his current doctoral student, Sandridge.

“I needed someone open-minded, not a traditional composer,” Hunter said. “Someone who’s into electronics, who can sample sounds and compose with them in an artistic way.”

Throughout the performance, the audience will hear sounds that Hunter captured during Harvey — claps of thunder recorded from her balcony at home, for instance — and see video footage she captured of water in every state from calm to tempestuous.

Bringing in creatives Loff and Sandridge to help bring her vision to life, Hunter said, was a supportive and reassuring experience.

"Flow" will take place in two 20-minute performances in the downtown park Nov. 9.

“Flow” will take place in two 20-minute performances in the downtown park Nov. 9.

“I know the vocal performance is going to be good,” Hunter said. “I know the sound is going to be good. It’s one less thing I have to worry about.”

And despite the thundering sounds and images of rushing waters that will fill the normally quiet corners of Sesquicentennial Park during “Flow,” Hunter hopes dredging up memories of Harvey will also be therapeutic.

“It’s also a healing, cathartic experience, because it’s not just about horrible trauma,” she said. “It’s also the beauty and power of water.”

“Flow,” Nov. 9, 20-minute performances at 7 and 9 p.m., Sesquicentennial Park, 400 Texas Ave. For more information, visit allisonhunter.com/art/flow.html.

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.