If you were given an empty building, what would you do with that space?
When a friend showed him a vacant warehouse around two years ago, it didn’t take long for Houston-based artist and yoga instructor Michael Stevenson to begin plotting on opportunities. Not a full-time artist at the time, he would soon realize just how much the building could represent for him and his community. Afterall, “There Is Enough for Everyone” is not only the name for his latest exhibition experience, but an actual state of mind for Michael who has since dedicated much of his art and work to creating space for other people.
After noticing the lack of celebration for the work of artists and creatives of color in Houston, Michael proposed that a community art show take place in his friend’s building. “I approached my friend that owned the building and I said, hey, I want to do an art show that focuses on black and brown contemporary artists,” Michael says. “He agreed, gave me the keys and said do whatever you want to do with it.”
We spoke with the self-described artworker and organizer about yoga as one of his biggest inspirations, the balance between art and movement, keeping community first and how he continues to create room for growth.
01. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Stretch. I’ll reach my fingertips away from my heels and take a full stretch, take a full breath and look around and ask myself “What do I want to do today?”.
02. How did you get into yoga?
My barber. It was like three and a half years ago he was cutting my hair like “You should come check out the yoga studio,” I was like dude I’m not going to the yoga studio there’s a bunch of people in spandex that don’t look like me at a yoga studio. Reluctantly I showed up and the moment I hit the mat I was done. I knew I was in.
03. So you have this building. How did that come about?
A friend of mine owned this building and asked me if I had any ideas on how to use it. At the time I didn’t really know of any ways to use the building and I wasn’t working as an artist, but at the turn of this year I decided I wanted to go all the way with my art. Along the way I noticed that here in Houston there wasn’t a large audience for black and brown contemporary artists specifically and we should have a show for our work. I approached my friend that owned the building and i said “Hey I want to do an art show in the building that focuses on black and brown contemporary artists,” and he agreed and gave me the keys to the building. We did this show called “There is Enough for Everyone” and that really made the community proud in a way I didn’t expect to happen. I just wanted to do something cool for my friends and when it made the community really proud that opened up a lot of doors, one being I’m able to utilize this building as a resource.
04. Why was it important for you to start “There is Enough for Everyone”?
I was trying to get into all the doors and it didn’t really seem like any were opening for me so I figured it would be really cool to make one. It was about making sure that people who look like me could execute and deliver really, really great art shows here in the city of Houston. Because I’m from here, I wanted to do something for here.
05. What has been your favorite part of it so far?
The way that everybody really feels like they are a part of Everyone. The experience, the people. Everybody is having fun. We have high school students to people over 50. Black, brown, asian. All sides of every spectrum, every identification, every preference, everything. Houston talks about diversity, but it’s kind of pocketed. Here, everyone is Everyone. This is a space where we for sure have that and I’m grateful for everyone contributing in that way.
06. How does movement play into your work?
The space in between me starting something and me finishing something is filled with movement. Oftentimes that is yoga postures. One thing I noticed I do a lot is I’ll find myself in a shape called half moon. It just feels really nice to breathe, reset and go back and approach my work.
07. What keeps you going?
I know that I’m here for a reason. To be of help and of service to the community. The fact that I know that and I don’t have to ask questions about my purpose and I can just be living in it is a big motivator for me.
08. How do you hold yourself accountable?
I just hold myself accountable. I understand that no one’s going to do it for me. I get that it’s really all on me.
09. What do you want to see more of in the world?
Just people breathing. I’d like to see more people breathing, everything else will figure itself out.
10. What’s the next thing you want to accomplish?
To sustain and allow room for growth. I want to keep doing what I’m doing, but I want to get better. Just continue to nurture and watch it grow.
You can keep up with Michael and all of his latest work by following him @michswork.