Art Valet

From left Peter Weeda, Eva Mennes, Kees van Twist and Suzanne Banning.

Almost immediately after First Saturday Arts Market had its first show in 2004, the phone calls and emails started pouring in. No, not just from artists, but the public looking for artists. They were looking for graphic designers, pet portrait artists, muralists or any of a dozen things.

I was suddenly the go-to guy to find artists.

I started a mailing list for artists that has grown to about 1,000 subscribers and spans the globe. Not what I was expecting, ever. It’s been fun having “pen pals” all over the world and I occasionally take advantage of this mailing list and send out my own “call for artists” email. I am always surprised by who answers.

Emerging artist Rebekah Molander, who I introduced to you last week, answered an email I sent to the Artists AT LARGE mailing list requesting a good story about their art. Suzanne Banning also answered that email, but because she lives in Wassenaar, The Netherlands, her reply arrived a day behind Molander’s.

Banning was a familiar name and face in the Houston art scene about the same time I was getting my market going. Banning describes her work as experimental photography. In an email reply, Banning caught me up on her whereabouts and art career.

“What crazy times we live in,” Banning wrote. “I moved back to The Netherlands five years ago after 16 years abroad, of which 11 years were in Houston. That certainly has an impression, Houston and the Houston art scene is forever part of me!

“I just very recently had the opening of a big survey solo exhibition of 28 self-portraits,” Banning continued. “It was held a whopping 15 months after I installed it, because of, well you know, that virus. I hung it on Friday the 13th of March 2020 (but who is superstitious?), then couldn’t host the opening as everything had just been shut down.

“Then it was planned for Sept. 30, 2020, but it had to be canceled since the corona situation was getting worse and worse. (And I was in quarantine myself as I had got a cold … just a cold, no corona it turned out). Then I waited for nine months, as long as a pregnancy, which you know takes like forever. Finally it was time! The location is a dream, The Wittenburg Castle in Wassenaar, The Netherlands.”

Banning’s opening finally happened June 23, a full 15 months from the original date with plenty of fanfare including three camera crews. Banning sent me copies of the local papers that ran stories on the opening, too. I couldn’t read them. They’re in Dutch. Sigh.

“My guest speaker was Kees van Twist, who was the director of the Groningen Art Museum for a long time,” Banning said. “He also used to produce television programs about art and culture, was the chair of a big cultural festival on the island of Terschelling (called Oerol) and he was the Cultural Attaché for Dutch Cultural Affairs in New York. I was very honored he was there to address my guests and me.”

Visit Banning’s website at Details about my call-for-artist mailing list can be found at

Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at for additional highlights and artist’s stories.

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