HIVE’s beginning is rooted in Creative Director Nestor Topchy’s desire to further develop the concepts of social sculpture initiated with TemplO/Zocalo, a multidisciplinary artist complex that began and grew in Houston in the 1990s.
Along with fellow artists Rick Lowe, founder of Project Row Houses, sculptor Dean Ruck, and Jim Pirtle, founder of Notsuoh, Mr. Topchy co-created TemplO/Zocalo in 1989, and was its Creative Director until 2001. During its heyday, TemplO/Zocalo was an incubator for experimental artistic activity, and gave artists of all disciplines a forum for creating, exhibiting, and staging their experimental and edgy works. The complex housed artists’ studios and living spaces, a gallery, indoor and outdoor stages, and embodied the belief that art is a creative and spiritual way of doing anything.
Artists were nurtured and encouraged at TemplO/Zocalo, with many collaborators growing to achieve regional and national prominence, including Andrea Grover of Aurora Picture Show, The Art Guys, Mark Flood, Jason Nodler, Tamarie Cooper and Jim Parsons of Infernal Bridegroom/Catastrophic Theater and Kevin Cunningham of Three Legged Dog in New York, lighting designer Christina Giannelli of the Houston Ballet, Richard Olson of Nexus New York, Mariana Lemesoff of Helios Arts/AvantGarden, painter Giles Lyon of New York, the late video pioneer Andy Mann, and conductor Jon Axelrod among others.
At this time, Mr. Topchy saw rows of shipping containers stacked ten high in the Houston Ship Channel. Struck by their Lego block practicality and austere beauty, he realized that the containers also were ideal building blocks for creating a utilitarian structure which could serve a community’s needs.
In 2004, as part of the Project Row House Festival (with the support of its then Interim Director Michael Peranteau and in collaboration with architect Cameron Armstrong and artist Jack Massing), Mr. Topchy installed a single donated container, the prototype for HIVE, simply known as Seed.
Within Seed Mr. Topchy constructed mock-ups of shipping containers converted to habitable boxes re-purposed as a school, hospital, jail, shop, mall, and residential living facilities. Featured in the 2009 “No Zoning” exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, curated by Toby Kamps and Meredith Goldsmith, and with further assistance from consultant Mariana Lemesoff, architect Si Dang, and engineer Hisham El-Chaar, the project evolved from its second developmental stage as Organ.
Now, finally as HIVE, the project has become an emergent reality.