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Bayou City Art Festival Downtown Returns Oct. 14-15

What Should I Do, (oil)

Featured Artist Tony Paraná Has Big Talent And A Big Heart For Houston

Tony Paraná (Photo – Beatriz S. Ines)

By Cheryl Alexander

The Art Colony Association, Inc. (ACA) has announced Bayou City Art Festival Downtown 2017 will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14-15. As one of the top outdoor fine art festivals in the U.S., this sophisticated gallery of art and artists is set to transform the streets of Downtown into artistic avenues bursting with colors and culture. The event will give guests an opportunity to see and purchase unique, custom art under the iconic Houston skyline; music, food trucks, beverages, entertainment, a Children’s Creative Zone and more will expand the fun; and local nonprofits will benefit.

This year’s affair marks 46 years since the founding of the Westheimer Art Festival, now known as Bayou City Art Festival, where more than 20,000 artists have showcased their work to thousands of art lovers from all over the world. Every year, a new jury selects participating artists, some new and some returning, ensuring a fresh and different festival year after year. The 2017 featured artist is Tony Paraná, a local self-taught mixed media artist originally from Brazil. Paraná, along with over 300 artists from around the country and 19 different disciples, will be showcased at this year’s event.

Paraná is inspired by Brazil’s northeastern region known for its rich colors, flavorful foods, beautiful landscapes, electric music and unique Afro-Brazilian traditions. Paraná captures his hometown’s community life, architecture, warmth and vibrant atmosphere in his art. He works primarily in oil paintings, mixed media, sculptures and mosaics. In 2007, Paraná arrived in Houston and immediately became involved in the local arts community. He has curated art events featuring spoken word poets, artist talks, live music performances and critique sessions.

Paraná first applied for the Bayou City Art Festival in 2007. “I was rejected at least three times before I was finally accepted three years ago.” In 2015, he won second place, and with his win this year, he says, “I feel it is my time to explore different areas of my art, and I also feel that many more people will benefit from my new exposure.”

Paraná is an artist with a big talent and perhaps an even bigger heart for the underserved and forgotten layers of society. He is a member of the Brazilian Arts Foundation where, among other things, he teaches art at the Wesley Community Senior Center and facilitates art shows, where 70 percent of the proceeds go to the senior artists and 30 percent goes back into the art program for purchasing supplies, organizing events, etc. Paraná also teaches Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music. His classes are offered in Katy, the Galleria area and in Houston’s Fifth Ward.

Perhaps most dear to Paraná’s heart is a program he founded called MASA — Mobile Art Space for the Artists (masahouston.com). Using 40-foot shipping containers, the program’s goals include creating a dynamic and mobile arts venue that can become a destination at any location. “These venues will stand out against the city landscape while at the same time camouflaging into it,” said Paraná. “In this sense, the whole actual structure becomes art – public and modern art.” His vision through MASA is to bring art, music, poetry and performance art to communities that do not have direct access to such experiences.

Paraná’s heart for these populations as well as his inspiration for his art stems from his childhood experiences in Brazil’s favelas. Favelas are the poorer areas of housing in Brazil built on the edge of big cities. “They’re hard to get into and out of, because they are built on the steep hills and have busy alleyways,” said Paraná. “From far away, they look like rough little houses built on top of each other.”

When Paraná began painting, he was intrinsically driven to show people who he is and from where he came. “I come from a place where life is hard; where people work hard, they struggle, yet still they can be happy,” he said. “Happiness doesn’t come from the outside. It comes from what you give and from what you do. When people look at my art, I want them to know me and also feel connected to the subject or message. I hope that each time they look at my art, they might be infused with a different emotion.”

Paraná also hopes that many people will come to
the Bayou City Art Festival this year. “I hope people will venture out and enjoy the art, talk to the artists and understand their differences,” he said. “It is important for
people to support the arts and the artists within their
own communities.”

Exclusively for Bayou City Art Festival, Paraná unveiled a new piece titled Liberdade (“Freedom”) inspired by Houston that will be the featured artwork for the 2017 Downtown festival. The background consists of the Houston’s iconic buildings blended in with a favela, which Paraná incorporates in his work. He was moved by the blooming landscape, water fountains and children playing at Discovery Green. Inspired by the city and incorporating color, Capoeira and a kite, Paraná is able to combine his signature style and the City of Houston to capture a memorable piece.

“We are thrilled to have Tony Paraná as our featured artist and can’t wait to highlight his diverse artwork throughout the city and at Bayou City Art Festival this fall,” said Bridget Anderson, executive director of Art Colony Association. “With the help from our amazing sponsors, patrons and supporters, we look forward to having the best outdoor art festival under the Houston skyline.”

Visit artcolonyassociation.org to purchase tickets, which are $12 for adults and $5 for children 6-12; children 5 and under are free. Tickets at the gate are $15 for adults. Also available online are two-day passes for $20 and family passes (two adults, two children tickets) for $30. Discounted tickets for veterans and seniors will be available at the gate. For updates on social media, follow the official event hashtags #HouArtFest and #BCAF, like the Facebook page, or follow on Twitter and Instagram.

Since its inception, the ACA has raised $3.5 million for local nonprofit programs through the festivals, which are funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, corporate sponsorships, private contributions, in-kind support and volunteer assistance. Volunteer and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, visit the website.


Lampião (oil)


Kite, oil on canvas. (Photo – Pierre Verger)


Marujo, (oil)


Favela Colorida, (oil pastel)


Capoeira de Angola (oil on board)


Capoeira Contemporanea (mixed media on canvas)

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