Recently, CRESSANDRA THIBODEAUX, Executive Director of 14 Pews (www.14Pews.org), posted this on Facebook: “I want you all to know of a very big change in my life. I accepted the position as the Executive Director of the Alberta Abbey (www.AlbertaAbbey.org), an old church in Portland, Oregon, that has been converted into an arts center, with two large stages, and lots of creative tenants, situated in the heart of the Alberta Arts District. I am excited about what the future holds in Portland, but am so sad about leaving Houston, which I call home. And more specifically, I am sad about selling 800 Aurora Street. 14 Pews is one of the best things that ever happened in my life. It brought me closer to my community, my mother, and myself. It has been a good 7½ years and that’s because of the support I’ve received from our amazing community. So, thank you!”
I was thrilled when Thibodeaux came to Houston and resurrected 14 Pews (also in a converted church) out of the Aurora Picture Show (www.AuroraPictureShow.org), whose building she took over while APS director Andrea Grover headed to New York for exciting opportunities and APS headed to a new space with new programs and much more. Cressandra came from Los Angeles but grew up in Houston (she’s a graduate of HSPVA). She invigorated 14 Pews, redesigning and spiffing up the space – which literally has 14 pews – while expanding its programming to include staged music and theatre performances and art exhibitions (including mine!). It was an artist-run community, one for all ages, as Cressandra shared her knowledge with youth in her annual “14 Pews Film Academy” (http://14pews.org/pages/14_pews_film_academy_1220.asp). She also presented her own masterful creations, including her photos and a stage/film production, “Dialogues on Grace,” which was inspired by difficult conversations she was having about religion and spirituality.
Cressandra is one of those people who can’t just sit still and let life flow by. Her legacy in Houston will be long-lasting and, luckily for her, we will all welcome her back should she want to return. As she wraps things up here, one of her favorite projects will come to fruition: the first annual Bechdel Film Festival (http://14pews.org/calendar.asp?pageid=15&calid=1667) will be held February 15–22. It’s opening at the Museum of Fine Arts (www. MFAH.org) and is a call for Houston arts organizations to support and promote women artists. As Cressandra leaves us, that mission will certainly not only be carried out here but also in Portland!