There is no doubt that the Houston art scene is innovative and ahead of the curve. There is one art medium that may be overlooked more than others – spoken-word poetry – but one festival happening this Saturday plans to change that.
Houston’s only arts festival highlighting spoken-word poetry, PlusFest, affectionately known as the everything-plus-poetry festival began in Houston last May. It was created by Houston native, and HBO featured poet, Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean.
PlusFest is one of only two festivals in the country that celebrates modern poetry through innovative measures and collaborative efforts with local musicians.
PlusFest aims to break down barriers around artistic disciplines so that new works can be created. The one-day festival will position spoken-word artists on a level playing field with local visual artists, videographers, DJ’s, musicians, and others to create new works and will showcase the work through a variety of innovative platforms.
I asked Outspoken Bean what he envisioned for PlusFest in the future. He already expects attendance to double to a thousand from last year’s event.
“I see PlusFest growing into a Houston institution as far as festivals are concerned,” said Outspoken Bean. “Poetry really doesn’t have a large platform for that art to really thrive in Texas. So, I’m trying to create that blend of poetry with music festival atmosphere. And who knows it may become an SXSW or a Coachella (which is what I’m really aiming for it to be.)”
Coachella is a massive multi-weekend art and music festival in California.
The goal of PlusFest is interactive impact; the festival will feature poetic photo booths, poetry slams, art installations, and speed writing buskers. By offering a wide variety of entry points, the festival aims to change the participant’s perception of poetry.
“Outspoken Bean” is a Houston performance poet, writer, and educator. A producer of experiences, Bean is currently the Near Northside Artist in Residence inducted by the mayor of Houston and a Round 9 Idea Fund recipient.
“You don’t need to know anything about poetry to enjoy PlusFest,” said “Outspoken Bean.” “Cater to your ‘let go’ side – your ‘let go for 10 hours’ side and explore new things – music you’ve never heard, films you’ve never seen, and even food as you’ve never experienced it before. When poetry is involved with these other things, it’s a completely different experience.
“As a performer and a poet, I always merge my craft with other mediums – it’s how I’ve survived, really,” he adds. “I’ve done work with dancers, musicians, singers, and even my one-man show is a combination of the arts, so I wanted to create a day, a festival that could celebrate poetry with everything else added on.”
Featured artists include rapper G Yamazawa, Dee-1 and Houston poet laureate, Deborah “Deep” Mouton.
The event takes place this Saturday, May 19, 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. between two locations, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, 1019 Commerce St. and The Sanders for the after party (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) 3411 Preston St. Day passes are $30, Plus Passes (VIP and After Party) are $50, and After Party passes are $20. Tickets are available for purchase through the website plusfest.net.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the new Market at Sawyer Yards, find him at ArtValet.com.