Less than a block from Burnett Bayland Park in the heart of the Gulfton Management District is Studio Space Houston, a sleek, modern venue for events and exhibits.

The facility hosts Alta Arts, an interdisciplinary arts program that has brought visual art exhibits, poetry, musical performances and more to the venue.

Now Alta Arts will showcase part of FotoFest, a free, citywide international event that has been prized for showcasing exceptional photography from and about marginalized communities and artists.

FotoFest’s large-scale collective exhibition includes “African Cosmologies: Redux,” part of which will be on view at Alta Arts from Sept. 24 to Nov. 6. (An opening night event is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 23). It includes photography from about 20 artists. 

The exhibition dives into social, cultural, and political conditions that influence the creation of visual images in Africa and its diasporas, London-based curator Mark Sealy said.

Michael S. Prentice

“We consider it an honor to be part of FotoFest this year,” said Joseph Permetti, executive director of Alta Arts. “It is very rare that an institution located outside (Loop 610) becomes part of an event like this” of significant artistic importance for Houston.

Most of the other FotoFest venues are on the edge of downtown Houston, among them the Menil Collection, Houston Museum of African American Culture, and Spring Street Studios. 

Alta Arts was born of the recognition that Gulfton and the adjacent Sharpstown area are some of the very diverse and densely populated neighborhoods in Houston lacking dedicated areas and programs devoted to the appreciation of the cultural arts and architecture.

The center’s mission is “to enhance a region of scarcity by elevating opportunities” for artists and other creators, including architects. Its home, the Studio Space Houston, is an architectural gem with a metallic façade and glass paneling. 

The exterior is adorned with slender abstract sculptures on granite that are part of the permanent collection of sculptures created by Michael S. Prentice, 

a sculptor and real estate investor with properties in the area who bought the place and co-founded Alta Arts in 2020.

It is the former studio of renowned Houston architect Victor A. Lundy, designed by himself. He has also designed resorts, government buildings and private properties.

“Several people come here for the first time and go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know there was something like this in this area,’ ” said Permetti.

The “wow” factor helps the organization promote and attract people to its educational programs.

“Being next to two high schools (Liberty and Wisdom), it allows us to really engage a student population and open their eyes about arts,” the executive director said.

Seeing the architecturally and artistically beautiful Alta Arts and exhibitions such as FotoFest can be inspirational, especially for people whose exposure to fine arts is usually scant, said Permetti.

He is convinced that young students with artistic streaks who haven’t been supported to develop their talents can go to Alta Arts to learn and realize that they can pursue art-making.

“You just have to give them the confidence or the encouragement to go ahead and experiment with art; that’s part of what we do here,” said Permetti.

The FotoFest exhibit at Alta Arts/Studio Space Houston, 5412 Ashbrook Dr. Houston TX 77081, ((713) 730-9736), is free and open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m – 3 p.m. or by appointment.

— By Olivia Tallet