‘Karmel’ art exhibit to raise funds for storm-damaged southeast Houston church

February 13, 2018

Roofers working on the storm-damaged Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church. Although the roof work may be completed in another month, interior damage still needs to be repaired. Photo by Jo Ann Zuñiga/Herald.

HOUSTON — Father Abelardo Cobos, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, prayed and even dreamed about how God would help his storm-damaged church. It needs an entire new roof and repairs to its water-soaked interior after being blasted by Hurricane Harvey last August.

One idea struck him and Father Cobos called artist Leopoldo Cuspinera Madrigal, a family acquaintance, about collaborating on an art exhibit to raise funds for the church.

“When I called him, Leopoldo told me he was praying at the time to do some good for a church so it was an answer to both of our prayers,” Father Cobos said.

Cuspinera began the artistic process of choosing a theme for the church’s exhibit of his neo-impressionist techniques. Called “Karmel” with both wispy and deep hues of blues, reds, violets, beige and other color palettes, the 28 pieces of artwork will be on exhibit and for sale Feb. 21 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the downtown Cathedral Centre at 1701 San Jacinto St., Houston.

A second art exhibit is scheduled for Feb. 28 with an opening reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Grand Sports Club in Spring to attract collectors from The Woodlands area. It will remain there on exhibit from Feb. 28 through March 4.
“The exhibit itself is free and open to the public, but we are hoping to attract art collectors interested in a unique opportunity to purchase from a professional artist and help the church at the same time,” Father Cobos said.

Now living in New Mexico and featured in galleries and museums there, Cuspinera said he uses mixed media with the technique based on ancient paper fabrication: the Japanese Washi and the Mexican Papel Amate. He has transformed these techniques by adding resins and other materials such as recycled paper pulp, oils, chalk, charcoal, gold, silver and bronze.

“I wanted to combine reality with the ethereal and mystical qualities found in flowers, mountains and paths through the garden of the soul. I was searching for the purity related to the Virgin Mary,” Cuspinera described.

Cuspinera has a bachelor of arts in architecture; master degrees in management and enhancement of the cultural heritage, sacred art and architecture that includes two years at the Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana in Rome.

Father Cobos said, “I’m so amazed that God is giving us the light on what to do. We want to know how we can answer this modern world, this contemporary society with this beautiful old church.”

The hacienda-style roof tiles on the church are basically antiques and too expensive to replace. Even using shingles, the cost of replacing the roof is more than $200,000. Father Cobos said, “The Archdiocese is being very good, working with us, also helping us to find financing and deal with the insurance.”

But even the deductible is more than the church has, so the Archdiocese is helping them to apply for grants, said Archdiocese’s Risk Management Director Kirk Jenings.

“We are working on estimates for the interior because water from the storm infilitrated the sanctuary. There is mold throughout that needs to be removed as well as asbestos remediation even before any repairs can be done,” Jenings said.
Father Cobos’ dream of lighting the Paschal candle at the beginning of Easter season in the church has been waylaid. Parishioners are not expected to go back into the church until this summer or beyond. They will continue celebrating Mass in the church hall that is also the school cafeteria.

“But we are hoping and praying that these art exhibits will be the blessings that help us return to our church as soon as we can,” the pastor said.