Ann Morton: What Happened Today?/ The Collective Cover Project

September 18, 2015 — January 3, 2016
In the Front and Main Galleries

Opening Reception
Friday, September 18, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
The evening will also feature the openings of Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project and Artifice of Nature, as well as open studios by HCCC’s current resident artists.

Related Programming
Artist Talk by Ann Morton, Saturday, September 19, 2:00 PM

This fall, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) is pleased to present What Happened Today?, an exhibition of newly created works by Arizona-based fiber artist, Ann Morton. Through a large-scale installation, Morton highlights the relevance of printed news and hand-crafted objects and their combined ability to communicate parallels among the voices of the individual, the greater Houston community, and the world-news stage. The exhibition also includes Morton’s award-winning work, The Collective Cover Project. This installation utilizes randomly found objects to explore ideas of place, time and memories of events, as well as their effects on individuals and on social, cultural, and political aspects of society.

What Happened Today? is comprised of two community-based components. One involves commentary from the lives of Houston residents as they interact with their local newspaper by responding to a question about their day, and the other includes the collection of local and national events deemed worthy of the Houston Chronicle’s news cycle.

During the spring and summer of 2015, Houstonians responded to an ad in the Houston Chronicle by answering the question “What happened today?” on a 3-x-3-inch note and mailing it to HCCC. Individuals from all walks of life responded, from prisoners in Harris County jails and senior citizens to kids of all ages and immigrants starting to learn English. Responses were also collected from visitors to HCCC and from drop boxes in several locations throughout the community. Many of the responses are very moving, such as a man who “came out by kissing a dude” and a prisoner who missed his three kids. Through their anonymous notes, participants revealed the deepest, darkest and also happiest moments they experienced on any given day. For the exhibition, Morton created a large hand-sewn quilt, comprised of all the notes collected throughout this period of time.

For the second part of the project, HCCC and Morton worked with a number of local community groups, university students, arts educators, senior centers, and service organizations to make hooked-rug squares made from newsprint strips of Houston Chronicle news events. Groups like Neighborhood Centers, Inc., and ARTreach came together to create the rug modules and share stories. Nearly 20 groups participated over a sixth-month period. Visitors to HCCC also participated in the rug-making activity at various events, including Museum Experience Day and HANDS-ON HOUSTON. Morton created a floor installation from all of the collected squares by hand weaving strips of the Houston Chronicle into the rug.

The two project components combine to constitute what Morton considers “events, large and small”—the things that make people who they are and shape the lives they lead. While the rug installation acts as a visual condensation of newsworthy events, the quilt captures individual contemplation and commonalities. Former HCCC Curator Elizabeth Kozlowski worked closely with Morton for more than a year to help carry out the artist’s vision. She is thrilled with the results of the project: “Ann’s practice of engaging the community in the art-making process through traditional fiber techniques provides an opportunity for the collective voice of our community to share in the creation of an exhibition and to realize the physical and mental benefits of making.”

What Happened Today? is made possible by generous support from the Houston Chronicle.


What Happened Today? Community Partners

  • ARTreach
  • Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans
  • Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston
  • ClayHouston
  • The Gateway Academy
  • Golden Age Hobby House
  • High school for the Performing and Visual Arts
  • Marnie George Community Center
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dept. of Scientific Publication
  • Needsville ISD
  • Neighborhood Centers, Inc.
  • Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees
  • SEARCH Homeless Group
  • St. Peter’s United Methodist Church
  • Surface Design Association
  • Turner College and Career High School
  • University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work
  • Wesley AME Church

The Collective Cover Project

The social components of What Happened Today? are based upon the initial concepts of The Collective Cover Project. At the beginning of 2009, Morton acquiesced to a fascination with lost items she would see on routine drives between home and any number of familiar destinations. She began specifically collecting soft, fabric-based objects that, to her, seemed uncomfortably out of place in the harsh asphalt and concrete environment of roads and highways. Morton hoped to capture numerous reflections of the collective culture of the times through the accumulation of these discarded objects.

The artist created a “constructed archive” by processing, numbering and photographing a total of 60 found objects and imbuing them with current events from the day they were found. These objects, or Members, as Morton refers to them, were then fitted with a white canvas shroud and a woven QR code that, when scanned with a smart-phone device, connects each object in cyberspace with its constructed history. The shroud fully encases each Member, denying visual access to the full details of the object, unless the viewer chooses to investigate further, through the QR-code tags or through the Collective Cover website. If visitors without a smart phone feel unentitled, it is with full intention, in support of the myriad messages evoked by the installation. Although the Members are embedded with knowledge, they silently portray the physical manifestation of a completely homogenized society.

About Ann Morton

“My work exploits traditional fiber techniques as conceptual tools for aesthetic, social communication. Driven by a desire to make right, the work I do reflects my own handwork, but also orchestrates social interventions that seek to engage the hands of many to create a larger whole.” – Ann Morton

After a 35+ year professional career as a graphic/environmental graphic designer, Ann Morton completed her MFA in 2012 from Arizona State University. Currently, she is a practicing artist and educator at Arizona State University and Paradise Valley Community College in metropolitan Phoenix.

Morton’s work has been shown and recognized nationally and internationally. Highlights include The Collective Cover Project, which was one of the juror’s top five in the 3D category at ArtPrize 2012 and was awarded the OxBow Residency; Street Gems, an ongoing social enterprise initiated in 2012, which engages individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness to make jewelry and flowers from discarded plastic; and Ground Cover, a socially engaged public art project that was selected by the Americans for the Arts, Public Arts in Review for 2014, and received the Arizona Forward Crescordia award in 2014. 

Above: (1) Ad published in the “Houston Chronicle” for “What Happened Today?” Photo courtesy HCCC. (2) Ann Morton, Hooked square rugs (components for rug installation), 2015. Newsprint. Photo by Kim Coffman. (3 – 5) Ann Morton, “What Happened Today?” (detail of rug installation). Newsprint, mixed media. 2015. Photo courtesy Ann Morton. (6) Ann Morton, “What Happened Today?” (quilt detail, back). Paper, mixed media. 2015. Photo courtesy Ann Morton. (7 – 11) Ann Morton, “What Happened Today?” (quilt detail, front). Paper, mixed media. 2015. Photo courtesy Ann Morton. (12 – 21) Notes from the community, 2015. Photos courtesy Ann Morton. (22) Artist Ann Morton, and HCCC Exhibitions Intern, Madeleine Sanchez. Photo by Kim Coffman. (23 – 25) “What Happened Today?” community workshop, 2015. Photo by Madeleine Sanchez. (26) Ann Morton, “The Collective Cover Project” (sweater). Fiber. 2012. Photo courtesy Ann Morton. (27) Ann Morton, “The Collective Cover Project” (pants). Fiber. 2012. Photo courtesy Ann Morton. (28) Ann Morton, “The Collective Cover Project” (suitcase). Fiber. 2012. Photo courtesy Ann Morton. (29) Ann Morton, “The Collective Cover Project” (shirt). Fiber. 2012. Photo courtesy Ann Morton. (30) Ann Morton, “The Collective Cover Project” (rug). Fiber. 2012. Photo courtesy Ann Morton.