I’m originally from Chicago, where I began my professional career in public relations and marketing after earning an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The first project I ever worked on was pretty amazing: Gerhard Richter Paintings at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The really fun thing about the opening was that the artist was not comfortable mingling with the guests, and instead he spent the entire evening up at the check-in desk, talking with the lowly check-in girl, who was me. This was the late 1980s and not long after I’d studied in Aix-en-Provence, France. I painted at a school there called Leo Marchutz, where I realized I was no good at making art, but loved to be around it as much as possible, nonetheless.
I left my flashy public relations work with restaurants, fashion shows, and theater openings at the agency, Margie Korshak, Ltd., and moved on to more corporate work at Burson-Marsteller, where my clients included Gatorade, SC Johnson Wax, McDonald’s, and Pella Windows, among many others. I was fortunate to interact on big projects with wonderful nonprofits like the World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Habitat for Humanity, which was the work I loved the most. It was during this time that I joined a nonprofit board for the first time, the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago. I’ve been involved with nonprofits and boards ever since. In fact, in 2012 I was awarded a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from Rice University’s Leadership Institute for Nonprofit Executives.
Since 2008, Houston has been my permanent home. I’ve lived here three times, interspersed with years in Norway and Qatar. No matter where I’ve lived, I’ve enjoyed putting my energies into helping those whose work and causes I support. Even thousands of miles from home, I’ve written Playbills, album liner notes, grant proposals, press releases, speeches, conducted research, and even produced some events. I also wrote a couple of books sponsored by ConocoPhillips, Diary of an Oil Expat Family and Diary From the Middle East, used to help foreign expatriates find success living abroad.
I started volunteering with the Menil Collection/Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum on some projects in 2009, and realized that I very much wanted a career working in the arts in some capacity.
While conducting research and doing some event planning for the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, I met the artist Nestor Topchy. We developed an educational brochure on the techniques of fresco painting to accompany his live fresco-painting demonstration at the chapel for Houston Museum District Day in 2009.
After our museum collaboration concluded, I began doing publicity work for Mr. Topchy, and produced an exhibition for him, Iconic Portrait Strand, featuring over 100 portraits of people painted in traditional Byzantine style and presented at George H. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home in Houston. Hundreds of people came to the one-night-only event, which caused quite a sensation in the local arts community.
It was during 2009 that Mr. Topchy took me to see his work in the No Zoning exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. His work, then called Organ, consisted of models, works on paper, and an architectural rendering for a walkable artists’ community developed in collaboration with the architect Si Dang, AIA. The concept involved taking an underutilized, undeveloped urban space and developing it as artists’ studios, apartments, restaurants, entertainment venues, and public green spaces, all accessible by public transportation and emphasizing walkability. Hundreds of repurposed steel shipping containers would form the structure for the community.
Over time and many conversations with Mr. Topchy, his partner, Mariana Lemesoff, and Mr. Dang, we formed a board and established the project, now called HIVE Houston, as a legal entity. We started to work to make the project a reality, creating a vision, mission statement, logo, and online identity. We began to find people in the community who could bring something to the project. With our ever-growing team, we developed short- and long-range plans and budgets. We found a real estate broker and worked to secure the perfect 10-acre property from which to bring HIVE to life.
HIVE Houston is a nonprofit project to create a living, inhabitable work of art. Our philosophy for the project identified very closely with Richard Florida’s ideas in his book The Rise of the Creative Class. His research ties the viability of urban development to its creative core, consisting of socially connected bohemians, artists, academics, IT innovators, musicians, and other cultural entrepreneurs. The implications of his research are that urban planners would do better to support this group through the development of cultural life, art, music, and eclectic Bohemian community, rather than courting big-box retail and the like. It was a good vision for Houston.
After three years, however, I left as executive director of HIVE Houston, having taken the project as far as I felt I could. Over these last years, I’ve gotten to know a number of local artists and am a regular at art shows, museums, and exhibitions. I am currently working toward my Master’s Degree in Art History at the University of Houston, so that I can provide the best service possible to my art-loving clients.
In 2014, I’ve decided to take what I do best and what I love most and combine them into Heidi Vaughan Arts Marketing, LLC. I am available for a full range of marketing services for museums, artists, and individual collectors. I can work on a project basis, or an hourly rate, and I do offer pro bono work for artists when I’m able. You can reach me at: Heidi@heidivaughan.com and 832/875-6477. Thank you!