The G5 Collective strives to support graduate art students and emerging Houston artists.

Liz Gates and Doug Welsh, two graduating UH MFA, Art students, launched the G5 Summer Intensive in 2021 to support graduate art students unable to obtain summer residencies due to the pandemic.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, as grant money dried up and fellowship opportunities vanished, graduate arts students at the University of Houston were dealt a bad hand. A lack of residency opportunities was particularly troubling, as these programs enable students to focus on producing work without financial pressures and burdens.

Rather than bide their time and wait for the worst of the pandemic’s impact on the arts to subside, two UH MFA candidates decided to forge their own path forward.

Liz Gates and Doug Welsh founded the G5 Summer Intensive in an effort to help MFA candidates as they grappled with the uncertainties created by the pandemic. Now, it’s evolved into a cooperative of multi-disciplinary artists focused on supporting members in their creative pursuits, while giving back to the larger Houston arts community.

“When the pandemic struck, we—and the rest of the campus—became siloed from each other,” said Welsh. “Rather than surrender to isolation, we decided to come together despite it, at a time when we all really needed each other.”

“Doug has an inherent ability to connect people and a knowledge of the Houston art scene that he gained by working as an art handler for important galleries for several years,” said Gates. “I have experience in leadership programming and team building from my previous career in the summer camp industry. Our combined strengths gave us the confidence to build a program that would fill the gaps we saw in our small corner of the world.”

With strong support from faculty and administration, Gates and Welsh launched the six-week summer intensive program in 2021, using two grants provided by the School of Art for initial funding. Open to graduate students in lieu of summer residencies, the program was designed to build community and give MFA candidates the opportunity to create without the pressures of academic life.

As part of the summer intensive, Gates and Welsh brought in five visiting artists, organized various workshops, and visited gallery spaces, including Bermac, Galveston Artist Residency and Galveston Arts Center.

Following completion of the inaugural summer program, the participants held a group exhibition curated by Erin Carty and Sarah Beth Wilson of Art League Houston

In addition to Gates and Welsh, nine of the program’s participants banded together to officially form the G5 Collective following the conclusion of the summer intensive. G5 draws its moniker from a nickname Gates coined for her and Welsh’s first-year cohort of five painters after learning that the home for their new studios would be connected to Garage 5 on the UH campus. The collective has committed itself to fostering an inclusive and collaborative environment for emerging artists.

Welsh said that G5 seeks to champion artists that may not benefit from traditional methods of displaying work.

“We aim to collectively support each other in our creative practices,” said Welsh. “In doing so, we create space to lift others up, particularly underrepresented and emerging artists, and to give back to the Houston arts community.”

Both Gates and Welsh intend to continue this effort following the completion of their MFA programs this year. The G5 Collective is seeking to grow organically, exploring organizing as a nonprofit and evaluating next steps.

“We are currently looking for a new home for G5—a physical space to come together, share ideas, create opportunities and host arts events,” said Welsh. “Through all of this, we will continue to volunteer at various arts spaces around town.”

Gates and Welsh are grateful for the consistent support from the Director of the School of Art and the Dean of the Graduate Studies Program, who have hired the pair to lead the summer program—now called the Elgin Street Summer Intensive—again in 2022. Gates and Welsh will serve as its directors and said they are thrilled that the administration is committed to making it a continued part of the UH MFA experience.

“It is our hope to continue the deep ties between the UH MFAs at Elgin Street Studios and the G5 Collective,” said Gates. “As we grow, we envision G5 as a potential stepping stone for graduating MFAs as they navigate life outside of school.”

“We believe that there is room for everyone, everywhere to create, and that a community focused on kindness and diversity will benefit all of us.”
Liz Gates, G5 Founder
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