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Economic crisis: Houston's solutions, new businesses (part 2) Black Swan LLC, Tomorrow's Picassos

Ann Brooks, Black Swan LLC

Black Swan LLC is a young screen-printing company whose life force is sustained by the creative passion of its owner, Ann Brooks—an accomplished artist whose work has been displayed in museums and galleries across the country.

However, during the past 14 months Brooks put all aside to launch Black Swan, having risked all of her savings to follow the whisper of a feeling. “I just felt it was the right time to start this company,” Brooks said. She explained the purpose of the business was to create limited edition artwork. “Black Swan does not duplicate paintings, but works instead to create a registered number of near perfect copies.”

When questioned about the difference between Black Swan and other screen-printing companies, Brooks spoke of how her company offers superior results along with reasonable rates. She said her aim was to foster the talent of emerging artists, (starving artist, so to speak) while at the same time also attracting established local artists, who select Black Swan based on the company’s reputation for excellence.

“Houston’s art community seems on the brink of explosive growth,” boasted Brooks. She spoke of the cities’ palette of multicultural talent and the growth of public demand for local artwork. Glancing around the studio, it seems the owner's enthusiasm showers flows of inspiration through the warehouse--seeing artists work with ardent intensity. Moreover, Brooks believed Houston would become the new North Star of the nation’s art scene--the primary reference point others would follow.

But might some of her views seem overly optimistic, considering the state of the nation’s economy? Do her colleagues agree with such predictions? Brooks replied that it was the forecast of her own intuition she observed, and discarded negative speculations of others--though she added most of the prominent leaders of the local art scene shared her views and perspectives. “Of course there are no guarantees. That's the way it’s always been. The pressure of risk is our greatest ally--not taking things for granted.”

The size of the city’s population; its low cost of living--where aspiring artists may live with lesser financial burdens; the public’s growing thirst for art--the low cost of warehouse space; all seem tangible ingredients supporting Brooks’ vision. Art seemed a remedy for the downcast times, offering a collective reflection of insight--as though a parallel existed between our troubled economy and the disconnection within our united selves.

Night had fallen by the close of the interview. The old warehouse was quiet--the only sound was the drone of the industrial fans sweeping up the day’s heat, along with the fevered air of dreams and visions still in pieces. Perhaps it was the same sound and the same stir of heat that had been left behind there night after night, through countless generations past; all the passion and the hope--crumpled plans and new beginnings; all the winning and the losing--never truly failing.

Outside, the night felt heavy with heat and humidity. Black Swan was the last warehouse on an ending street. Beyond, a bayou snaked up networks of neighborhood streetlights, and in the distance--a sight blurred by the haze of humidity--appeared the buildings of downtown, whose lights pinned the horizon like a sunken constellation of stars.

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