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:
- 10th Big Range Dance Festival Schedule [Ten Years of Dance]
- What is WOAH? [Big Range]
- Previously on Swamplot: New Arts Complex Planned for Abandoned JCPenney at West Oaks Mall
Photos: Vipul Divecha (dancers), WOAH (all others)