Fifth Ward Journey: Since When Did This House Become Art?

The City of Houston permitting office has worked its artistic magic: There’s a house now sitting on the lot at 3705 Lyons Ave. in the Fifth Ward that’s officially classified as a sculpture. Last week, it was just a run-down bungalow a couple of miles to the northwest, at 3012 Erastus St. At what point along its journey — which after several postponements finally took place last Thursday night — did the transformation occur? City officials and demo artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck can’t pinpoint it. But we’ve got a few photos of the move. Maybe someone can point out for us the exact moment the art began?


Havel and Ruck had to make sure all city permits were in place for their Houston Arts Alliance-funded project, which they’re calling “Fifth Ward Jam.” As Havel explained to Swamplot last week, city officials “had a hard time categorizing” the work. They needed to identify the house as a structure in order for it to qualify for the moving permit. But on its arrival at the Fifth Ward CRC’s lot on the corner of Lyons and Capron St., all they needed was permission to work on a sculpture.

Here’s the house on its original site:

After Wooten House Movers had the structure in tow:

Along Lyons Ave.:

And being backed onto the new site:

Before they even get to wield a Sawzall, Havel and Ruck’s raw material is sculpture:

Photos: Havel Ruck Projects

21 Comment

    Move “C.” “TR” for “LP”
    Ta-da, art is born.

  • No mirrors or tricks.
    Just can-done and why we like
    The City of Houston.

  • No mirrors or tricks.
    Just can-done and why we like
    Living in Houston.


  • Nothing like free art money.

  • Markd. Your remark about “free” art money doesn’t ring true. Like any other contractor who wins a bid, Havel Ruck has a contract with HAA and the City of Houston to produce a final public art piece. Like any other contractor or designer, we have to WORK for the money we will receive, which pays for the time and material cost to create the final piece. We don’t get paid in full until the piece is completed. So much for free art money.

  • I think I’d like to volunteer this house for a ‘performance art’ project and adapt it a variation on the Burning Man event. Some gasoline and a match would make an interesting performance exhibit.

  • Looks to me like the sculpting began with the removal of the little “extra room” on the side of the house.

    And yes, the entire move had to be one heck of a performance! Love that pix along Lyons
    Ave with all the lights.

  • what a complete waste of money.

  • Hey htownproud, I am proud that these two artists choose to live and practice their art here in Houston. They could choose to live anywhere, but they chose here. And Houston, without them, would be just a little bit more boring.

  • Whatever it evolves into will likely be a hell of a lot more interesting than that ridiculous turned-around house. I still fail to see the point in THAT.

  • I sure hope the City of Houston isn’t funding this. Aren’t we in the middle of a budget crisis? From what DD DEMO says it sounds like they have a contract with the City. We’re doing stuff like this and the Mayor is having a hard time finding things to cut?

  • Dear Anti-Public-Art Grumpies,
    This project is creating an inviting public park in a depressed area, on the cheap. Is that difficult to understand? And the Sharpstown project is creating a community center and lab for new building materials, also in a depressed area, funded by lots of grants from private sources. Both have terrific potential to attract larger improvements to the areas around them. Both projects provide terrific leverage for what little public investment they might require — a bargain even under budget constraints. Apologies that the artists are unable or unwilling to speak about their work in purely budget-oriented terms. Maybe they should spend more time explaining the resulting benefits of their work to people, but there will always be people who are going to whine every time they hear the word “art” anyway. The job of explaining should go to all the people who have benefited from projects like this in the past. Both the 5th Ward and Sharpstown projects follow in the ridiculously successful tradition of Project Row Houses. (Where were you when we needed you to tell Rick Lowe he was just wasting paint?) Now go find something else you have only a vague understanding of to complain about.

  • Andrew, thanks for the scolding, I haven’t been belittled in days! Last time I checked it was OK for me to have and share an opinion about art. Honestly I didn’t know that the house turning thing was associated with a community center – so perhaps it does have a “point,” but I still think it’s lame as art.

  • you do realize they’re going to tear a big hole in that thing and reuse all the pieces to turn it into an art piece right? how about we wait until they’re finished with the project to critique it?

  • Andrew: You’ve made me hate publicly supported art even more now.

    Can someone verify if there is City of Houston money involved in this?

  • Art builds brain cells. No art, no brains.

  • jgriff, the HAA receives money to allocate, through competitions and review boards, to arts organizations and artists through the Hotel and Occupancy tax. This is a tax paid by people who stay in local hotels, probably out of town tourists. This money helps fund many arts organizations, not just the civic arts program. Hopefully, a culturally active city attracts more tourists, thus more tax money made by the city to help out in many areas, not just the arts. So, unless you are staying in local hotels, the civic arts program is not being funded by your tax dollars. And, yes, the HAA had their budget slashed by the city this year, too. If you want to know more, follow this link. hope this helps.

  • I just realized that DD DEMO is Havel Ruck Projects (right?). Glad you are stepping up to defend what you do and how it is financed–in these times of austerity, I suspect you and other artists will have to do this a lot.

  • Jessica1: I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to come off as scolding you. Of course everyone has every right to call any art ridiculous, or lame, or brilliant, or whatever they want. I was addressing people whose knee-jerk reaction to hearing the word “art” is to start shouting about public funding. That wasn’t you. I only brought in the Sharpstown project because it appeared to be a similar situation. I just wish more people who appreciate the value of these kinds of projects in general would speak up more regularly when they’re attacked, rather than leaving the comments sections to the “my tax dollars”-obsessed.

    Jgriff: Are you in favor of publicly supported parks? Recreation programs? Swimming pools? Music programs? Education? Is there anything with the word “art” in it that you would support any amount of public funding for?

  • I don’t understand what passes for “art” these days. At all.

  • Hello Dan and Dean just following up on the House, please let me know when the house is done . I think the way you turn an old House into art the way you both do is amazing.Don’t forget to let me know.
    Thanks Daniel H.