My Top 5: Artist Matt Manalo

365 Things to Do in Houston Posted September 12, 2022 in In The News

Our thanks to Matt Manalo for including Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in his 365 Things to Do in Houston “My Top 5” feature! We are very excited for Matt’s solo exhibition here at HCCC in early 2023.

In our My Top 5 series, we turn to the Houstonians who create and shape Houston’s character and ask them to share their own favorite things that make H-Town home. This week, we’re delighted to feature artist Matt Manalo, who also founded alternative art space, Alief Art House.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

By Justin Jerkins

Photo: Michael Starghill Photography; courtesy of the artist.

“I’ve lived here for 19 years; my family and I moved here [from Manila, Philippines],” says artist Matt Manalo, founder of Alief Art House and Filipinx Artists of Houston. “I was already in college when I left, pursuing computer engineering and then when I came here, I felt like it wasn’t a thing I wanted to pursue anymore. At that time, people were really hiring nurses at a fast rate and so I thought that was something I would be doing for the rest of my life, and it turned out it wasn’t [laughs]. I quickly realized that I can’t really imagine spending the rest of my life working at a hospital and that’s when I did some self-searching…I’ve always been interested in art growing up and that’s when I realized that art is something I wanted to do full-time for the rest of my life.”

About Matt Manalo

Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, Matt Manalo’s artistic practice is rooted in environmentally-conscious process, incorporating raw materials and found objects to tackle ideas surrounding his own immigrant identity, displacement, and how “home” is defined. Most recently, his work was exhibited at Asia Society Texas’ Artists on Site: Series 3, and he has an upcoming solo show at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in early 2023.

Matt is founder of Filipinx Artists of Houston, and the alternative art space, Alief Art House on the grounds of Alief SPARK Park and Nature Center, which serves as a hub for creativity that highlights the cultural richness of the multiple communities within a unique Houston neighborhood. Recently, it has expanded to include the Alief Art Garden, whose main goal is to grow plants that can withstand the Houston climate while serving multiple purposes, such as providing colors, pigments and fibers from nature as well as community-based produce.