Join Login Search
For Electric Cooperative Members
For Electric Cooperative Members
MidSouth EC News

Meet Navasota’s Resident Artists

Residency program provides support with living quarters and studio space

In case you haven’t heard, the rural town of Navasota is experiencing commercial growth. With renewed interest in local shops and businesses often comes a renewed interest in the arts. After converting the historic Horlock House off of East Washington Avenue into an art gallery and history museum in 2014, the city partnered with the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley to establish a residency program for aspiring artists.

The Navasota Artists in Residence program brings in artists from across the country to live and work in the Horlock Art Gallery and History Museum. The downstairs of the building serves as a gallery, and the upstairs serves as the artists’ living quarters and studio. Every six months, two to three applicants are selected by the ACBV to participate. Artists have the opportunity to create new works as well as showcase their compositions to the public, teach classes and host events. The current Navasota artists in residence are Siana Smith and Sara Nevius.

Siana Smith, originally from China, immigrated to the states and built a home for her and her family in San Francisco. Smith started her career as a software engineer and, after raising four children, decided to pursue art. In 2021 she earned her Master of Fine Arts in fine art painting from California College of the Arts.

Smith mainly works with oils to paint classical and realistic pieces. She hopes to expand her artistic range and try other styles as she moves forward in her career. Her subject matter focuses on how we as humans have an excess of possessions such as beauty supplies and clothing.

“I am inspired by the things and people around me,” Smith said. “I started one of my first series by looking inside myself to understand why I, too, collect certain items such as lipstick and purses. Recently, my focus has been on the excess of technology. The goal is to reflect on how the desire for many possessions affects us psychologically.”

Sara Nevius recently earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing and painting from Union University in Tennessee. Nevius had been living in San Antonio since graduating college until moving to Navasota to participate in her first residency.

A painting by Sara Nevius hangs in the Horlock Art Gallery.

Sara Nevius stands in front of her collection of portrait drawings.

Drawing is Nevius’ first love, but she became more interested in painting toward the end of her undergraduate career. Contemporary artist Jenny Saville is an inspiration to Nevius, but she also looks up to many Dutch portrait painters and finds inspiration in classical Renaissance works. Through figurative work and portraiture, she strives to capture the identity of people. “My inspiration is always the people around me,” Nevius said. “Because I’m a military kid, I never had a permanent home, so the people around me became my version of home.”

Smith and Nevius strive to earn a living creating and selling their artwork. Both feel their residency in Grimes County is a great steppingstone to gaining exposure.

“Getting a residency is a dream for every artist,” Smith said. “After graduating, I applied for 15 months until getting this one. I was so excited, I packed up my shop right after being accepted.”

The community of Navasota has been an inspiration to both artists. Aside from creating new works, they actively participate in the community through attending events, giving tours with the chamber of commerce and teaching classes.

“The community and culture have really inspired me in my work,” Smith said. “I plan to create more pieces related to Texas, especially about small towns like Navasota, because the history here is quite interesting.”

“The arts are such an enriching part of people’s lives, and this program offers so much to the citizens of this town,” Nevius said. “It’s such a unique thing to have different artists from different places rotate through the community … not just for the art but to learn from people outside of your normal bubble.” Smith and Nevius started their residencies in Navasota in September 2022 and will be living and working in Navasota until March. In February, the Horlock Art Gallery will host a closing ceremony to showcase pieces created by this talented pair.

Next time you’re in Navasota, make sure to stop by and view the Horlock Art Gallery. The resident artists’ works are available to the public for viewing from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday–Sunday. Follow Navasota Artists in Residence on Facebook to stay up to date on events the artists attend and classes they teach.