The Ship Channel’s Folk History on View

THE SHIP CHANNEL’S FOLK HISTORY ON VIEW Vest-photo-boatman-300 Houston Arts Alliance’s Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel, an exhibit running through January in the Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson building, focuses on the Houston Ship Channel’s second 50 years, a half-century that saw the port utterly transformed by the advent of the containerization of cargo.  The centerpiece of the exhibit is a John Biggers mural of African-American dockers hoisting cargo, and the room is dotted with the photographs and timelapse films of working Channel pilot and photographer Lou Vest. Newspaper clippings shine a light on the Channel’s occasional outbreaks of labor strife,while in an alcove across the hall, viewers can take in a collage of portraits of typical houses in harborside neighborhoods such as Fifth Ward, Magnolia Park, Clinton Park, and Denver Harbor that many dock workers have called home for generations.  Via overhead speech domes, you hear the pilots, stevedores, and boatmen tell their own stories in their own words. The exhibit is less a standard, top-down institutional retelling of the Ship Channel story than it is a Studs Terkelesque folk history. [Houston Arts Alliance] Photo: Lou Vest.

One Comment

  • My grandfather came to Houston from a little Polish town called Bremond, TX to work at the channel when WW2 started. It’s a muddy place that stinks and can hardly keep a catfish alive but it has a lot of background and is the root of much history in this town.