New Art House at West Oaks Mall Opens This Weekend with Vacant JCPenney Dancers

The very first event at the brand-new West Oaks Art House takes place this Friday night, when the Suchu Dance company performs its first work in the eerie fluorescent-lit cavern left behind by JCPenney when it gave up on its freestanding building at the West Oaks Mall in 2003. The performance kicks off the appropriately named Big Range Dance Festival. It’s not just the repositioning dance of the vacant mall department store: 16 Suchu dancers will range around the enormous space in a piece called “Afternono.” To counter claims that this event is a bit too “way-out” for Suchu’s usual East Downtown audiences, the company is commandeering a trolley-style bus to bring audience members from the Spring Street Studios north of Downtown to the West Houston mall at Westheimer and Hwy. 6.

LA artist Sharsten Plenge, who’s been working to transform the abandoned 100,000-sq.-ft. store into some sort of arts center — in part by offering free rent to artist groups willing to venture so far from their usual haunts and set up shop or exhibits there — tells Swamplot she hopes the inaugural Suchu performance (as well as additional ones on subsequent Saturday afternoons) “marks the beginning of what we hope to be many more unique projects” in the building, which now bears the acronym WOAH.


Since announcing the project last November, Plenge — whose father, Steve Plenge, is the managing principal of mall owner Pacific Retail Capital Partners — has been at work on what she calls “the monumental task of restoring the space to functional use,” as well as figuring out exactly what to do with it. Recent photos of the space show the former department-store sales floor significantly cleaner and clearer than the retail relic that had been sitting there unused for 9 years:

Photos: Vipul Divecha (dancers), WOAH (all others)

One Comment

  • Hello,

    I’m on the board of Suchu Dance, the organizers of the 10th Big Range Dance Festival which will kick off at a brand new site specific piece at the new West Oaks Art House. On behalf of the Big Range Dance Festival and our amazing new friends at West Oaks Art House, we welcome all of you ‘culture vultures’ to come out to view the space, and view the work that we’re bringing to it.

    The festival occurs over three weeks in June and the site specific piece at West Oaks Art House occurs June 1 at 8pm, June 9 and 16 at 1pm.

    I will give Swamplot readers a 15% off coupon admission as an incentive. Use coupon code at check out. 72JGTRNDKGBN. Tickets purchased at And for those of you who say this is still way to far out, we’ve got a special trolley (it’s a private luxury trolley) that leaves Spring Street Studios tomorrow June 1 at 7PM and drops you off at WOAH. There will be no late seating, first come, first serve. Spring Street Studios will have a sherrif monitoring cars. Light snacks and beverages are on board (donations accepted). The return trip is by 10pm. You can also use this coupon code to come to the event June 9 and June 16 and 1pm and use it for any other Big Range Dance Festival program dates. Tomorrow’s festival date, June 1, should you decide to come sans trolley, starts exactly at 8pm, $20 at the door. We’re a 501(c) 3, so donations are graciously accepted.


    Suchu Dance Advisory Board
    The first WOAH tenant!