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UH Alumna Excels as Zócalo Apartments Artist-in-Residency Program Director

Ileana Yordan discusses her new role and valuable time in the M.A. in Arts Leadership program.

Zócalo Apartments Artist-in-Residency (AiR) Program is the first of its kind in Houston. The program offers selected artists free housing, financial support and space to exhibit their art. The program also gives the artists opportunities to connect to the surrounding apartment community, and M.A. Arts Leadership alumna Ileana Yordan is successfully helming this initiative.

As the program’s director, Yordan designed and moderated the entire artist selection process. She handpicked Houston based arts professionals with intimate knowledge of the Houston and regional art scene to judge AiR candidates and created the application artists used to apply. She developed guidelines and scoring criteria judges referenced to evaluate each candidate, moderated the discussion judges had to select semi-finalists and brought to life the public voting system used to include the Zócalo community in the voting process. Yordan was on top of her game from start to finish and said that the effective lessons she learned from the M.A. in Arts Leadership program helped her throughout this process.

Learn more about the challenging and rewarding aspects of Yordan’s position at Zócalo Apartments and how UH contributed to her accomplishments in our Q&A below!

How has your role as Zócalo Apartments Artist-in-Residency Program director challenged you? 
Public-facing has been one of the main challenges with this position. This is the first time I’ve been the face of the program. As the program director, I have to be the mediator between the artist community and the residence as well as garner interest and excitement for the program. I mediate by catching residents on their way to work, through an online platform that our complex uses and through flyers to inform people of any upcoming events. I think some pressures come along with this position, but at the same time, it has been gratifying. This new role has been a great launching pad for me to gain recognition in the Houston arts community.

How did UH prepare you for this position?
I don’t think I would’ve had the skills and the tools I needed to take on such a massive project if I had not attended UH. The M.A. Arts Leadership program offered a host of practical classes that have expanded both my vocabulary and my understanding of how to establish and operate an arts organization. I have the confidence to take on big projects because I know I have access to resources such as books, class presentations and professors who I can reach out to for advice, all of which I gained through the M.A. Arts Leadership program.

Why are community-centered projects important? 
Art is a way to bring communities together. The fact that this program is based in and supported by an apartment community emphasizes how vital community is to this program. We want to create an environment and a sense of place at Zócalo where art is part of everyday life, where residents can go about their day feeling inspired and connected to their community through art. This is the first artist residency program to take place in Spring Branch, so we are leaders in this area who will hopefully inspire others to take on projects like this and commission artists to do more in the Spring Branch areas. 

How has UH shaped your understanding of public art?
When I was in high school, I thought of art as object-based making. I didn’t consider the more significant implications of what art does and can do for culture and our society. I didn’t realize or understand community-based art until I took The Arts and Community Engagement course with Assata Richards at UH. That class opened my eyes to the broader scope of what art means and what art can be. I thought it’d be an excellent opportunity to bring that idea of art to Spring Branch and Zócalo, so I did.

What is the future of this program?
Now that the launch is behind us, and since the artists have been selected, the next step is to prepare for the artists to move to Zócalo in January and begin their residencies. I will focus on learning more about the artist's goals, visions and ideas, so I can best support their needs and make their residencies a valuable and engaging experience.