Heights Living: Whiteout!

White Linen Night in the Heights 2011

On August 6th, 2011 an estimated 50,000 poured themselves into the quaint streets of The Heights (a historic neighborhood just north of downtown Houston).  They came to celebrate "White Linen Night in the Heights".  This now annual and wildly popular event started only 5 years ago at the initiative of certain business owners who, after the tragic events of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, found themselves displaced and relocated to Houston.  The event has now grown into a neighborhood-wide celebration of culture, art, music, dance, fashion, and food, attracting thousands of visitors from other Houston neighborhoods to experience the urbanity, the life, and the brilliance of our community.  In the tradition of New Orleans White Linen Night, the revelers are encouraged to wear white clothing to combat the sultry heat of Houston's summer nights.
The Heights Theater on 19th Street.

Breezy white linen on White Oak Drive.


White Out on 19th Street.
The event started at 6:00pm on White Oak Drive with a parade of bike riders and a float:

A member of Harleys Angels decorated her bike with wings.  Before the Parade on White Oak Drive.
White Oak Drive was renamed, for that night only, "Pink Street" in honor of Breast Cancer survivors and fighters.  Pink tents were erected in the middle of the street, and the vendors dressed in cheery pink clothes, forgoing the traditional white, in solidarity with the plight of so many women.  The highlight of "Pink Street" was a short performance of "Time Out of Line" by Houston's best contemporary ballet company The Dominic Walsh Dance Theater:

The beautifully talented and award winning Domenico Luciano.

"Time out of Line".  Dancers from The Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre.
The ballet deals with the passage of time and our perception of it, with repetition, continuity, and the idea of time working against us.  It is a gorgeous piece which I've had the pleasure of seeing it performed by the whole company at Zilkha Hall.  On august 6th we stood in the setting sun watching time run away from us through the fluid movement and genius of Dominic Walsh.

After the performance we moved onto 11th street where Karen Derr was serving the most delicious white chocolate martinis among the delicate beauty of Buchanan's orchids:

Karen Derr, who knew she made martinis!?
Catching the shade.  Buchanan's Native Plants.
Besides the martinis, Buchanan's also provided aperitifs in the green house and was host to Good Dog Hot Dogs, one of Houston's famous food trucks:

Good Dog Hot Dogs draws a crowd at Buchanan's Native Plants.
The Decorations at Buchanan's Native Plants.

Then it was time for the fashion show.  The businesses of 19th street had set up a catwalk at the main intersection, where we saw everything from current fashions to vintage evening dresses and folkloric attire (the latter provided by Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery).

Vintage fashion on 19th Street.
Trying to catch a glimpse of the fashion show from Langford Market.

The fashion parade continued not only on the catwalk, but also below in the streets where people found stylish, creative, and interesting ways to comply with the dress code:

The beautiful salesperson at Langford Market
The ones who really made an effort; even his shoes are white!
 And the more interesting...
19th street was also the location of, for lack of a better term, the "street surfing".  Several teenagers had set up an inflatable runway with a ramp on one end, and filled it with water; then proceed to surf on it:

Street surfers on 19th street.
Night fell and it was time for one last stop and one last highlight.  We made our way back to 11th street to David, Etc. where local painter Wendy Berthiaume was being toasted.  The party was in full swing, but Ms. Berthiaume was very gracious and she gave us a tour of her work:
"Congregation".  5ft by 5ft, Oil on Canvas.
Wendy calls her work "a stream of consciousness".  The paintings are abstract, and rather than being a representation of ideas, they represent Wendy's feelings and emotions in the moment of their conception.  Paint, light, and color lead Wendy through the artistic process, in which shapes and structures form seemingly of their own accord into, geometric shapes, endless black tunnels or liquid fire:
"Marrow". 4ft by 5ft, Oil on Canvas.  Image courtesy of Wendy Berthiaume.
I think Wendy's most intriguing work is her recent incursion into black and white.  Wendy created three paintings of varying shades of white, grey, and black; one of which is so dark that it may at first disturb the viewer:

"Wet Suit Legal".  Oil on Canvas.
My initial feeling upon gazing at this canvas was one of drowning.  The deep grey, almost black, tunnels formed by swirls are eerily reminiscent of seaweeds.  The darkness is oppressive and yet on second look one notices the transparency and luminosity of the (shall we call them?) seaweeds, and realizes that light filters through these deep waters.  I told Wendy of my impression and asked her about her inspiration.  She in turn told me about her first open water swim (Wendy is also a triathlete): she had been training diligently in the safety of a pool, but the morning of the race she found herself face to face with the reality of having to swim in a cold lake, where your body becomes a tangle of limbs washed in the waves.  "Wet Suit Legal" depicts the vision she had right before the dive, and to me it also represents her anxiety and her fear, but at the same time victory and hope, seen in the light playing on the surface.  We are familiar with these sentiments, all of us experience fear and doubt, and we cling to hope to swim across our oceans.
Wendy Berthiaume exhibiting her work.
We said our good byes to Wendy and the guests of David, Etc. and tried to go home, but the festive spirit continued in the streets even though the barricades had already been removed; so we settled for a while on the terrace at Zelko Bistro, and after some savory bites we finally went back to our cottage.  For many others however, the revelry continued well into the early morning.

Night falls on 19th street.  Until next year!

To see more pictures of the event visit us on facebook.

All images by NPL unless otherwise noted.

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