Sculptor and photographer David Brown believes the health of a city can be determined by the vitality of its arts scene. Brown’s brainchild, a one-stop-culture guide known as Spacetaker, gives Houstonians a good idea of just how much space the arts take up in our fine city. “An ecology of third and second tier arts activities actually support first tire arts organizations such as the symphony, ballet, and theater,” states Brown.
Spacetaker features a master calendar of the arts that moves forward (all the way to 2006) and backward in time. Member organizations can utilize the calendar function to keep up-to-date accurate information flowing to their publications. In one click you can find out what to do this weekend and all the pertinent information on the event you have selected. After a few more clicks, you have tickets to the show. “In fact, you can find out what to do right this minute,” says Brown. In addition to the handy calendar, visitors can also read profiles of artists and organizations. Photos of over 150 arts events are also available online. “Not only does Spacetaker promote the arts but it is also a comprehensive archive of Houston’s art community”
Brown recognizes the shrinking space in arts journalism. A grassroots approach may be the most effective way to keep information flowing between artists and their audiences. Brown has conceived one central clearinghouse for the arts, neutral enough to meet multiple markets. “Spacetaker helps small and medium size arts organizations leverage their events to get more coverage.” Arts organizations can easily upload their latest information to the site.
“Spacetaker” was originally the name of an “in your face” art exhibit conceived by Brown and fellow artists Will Bentson and Paul Kremer in 1999 for Project Row Houses. The project never happened, but the name stuck. The first Spacetaker, launched in 2000, was a site for artists’ digital portfolios and a resumes. “It was kind of a 40-hour a week hobby.” Brown wanted to take the idea further to meet both the needs of artists and the art-consuming public. He gathered a crew of technical types Chet Farmer and Carlos Go Boncan and spent the past 18 months developing the code for the site. Spacetaker is an “open source” project.
Spacetaker isn’t just a virtual place; six Spacetaker sponsored art exhibits occur at Dean’s Credit Clothing annually. “Houston’s über collector Lester Marks threw open his art palace to host our first annual fundraiser.” Marks’ cutting edge contemporary collection and unerring eye has been recognized by Art & Antiques and ARTnews’ prestigious Top Collector Lists. Over 200 people showed up to celebrate Spacetaker’s second birthday. Performances by Aileen Mapes, Jessi Harper, Daniel Adame, DJ Sun and Two-Star Orchestra rocked the house. Brown hopes to secure enough funding for two full-time staff members by 2006 to continue development.
Brown takes an aggressive approach to attract traffic to his site. A Spacetaker billboard at I-10 and TC Jester will get 190,000 car views this month. The billboard was made possible by our partnership with the Watershed Public Art Project. The site gets between 700 and 1500 hits per day with an average 7-minute hang time. That means people actually use the site. The city of Houston has Spacetaker listed on their website as a resource for the community. “I was very pleased to recently approve Spacetaker’s grant to aid in the completion of your on-line arts calendar that will serve the entire Houston Community, states Major Bill White. CACHH, LINC and the Houston Endowment have generously supported Spacetaker’s vision.
Brown spends his days updating the site, meeting with potential partners, and applying for funding. Brown trained in sculpture under Paul Kittleson and Luis Jimenez at the University of Houston. He still finds time to prepare for a set of solo shows at DiverseWorks and Deborah Colton Gallery this March. He holds big plans for the company. “Once we finish development we can license the Spacetaker software to any city,” says Brown.