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Founded in 1986 by Charlie Jean Sartwelle and John Runnels, Mother Dog Studios is the oldest and largest surviving artists' working warehouse space in Houston. Mother Dog Studios evolved as a response to the visual art community's need to provide working studio/exhibition space for local and visiting artists. The 22,000 square foot warehouse is comprised of 17 studios and an expansive exhibition space called the Mother Dog Museum of Modern Art.


For over 22 years, Mother Dog Studios has been the headquarters for the Annual Downtown Artists' Warehouse ARTCRAWL and is a regular participant of FOTOFEST with thematic photographic exhibitions.


Mother Dog Studios serves as a working advocate for contemporary art and as a catalyst for nurturing emerging and established artists by providing opportunities for inspiration, experimentation and education. Mother Dog Studios remains committed to advancing innovative art and art practice as a vital social force.

Originally built in 1925, the railroad to truck covered, crossdock freight terminal has also been used through the years as a store fixtures and furniture manufacturing shop, cardboard box company and Dixie Glass Company. The diversity of the buildings uses are reflected in the patinaed and patched collage of materials from once red bricks to corrugated metal. Certain visual gems remain: paint layered 8 ft. beams and the geometric nexus of water sprinkler pipes.


Mother Dog Studios is just a stones throw away from Houston's historic Allen's Landing and McKee Street Bridge along the serpentine Buffalo Bayou. Surrounded by skyscrapers, cathedrals, universities, jails, warehouses and interstate highway interchanges, Mother Dog Studios is in the heart of the natural forest and cultural forest of the 4th largest city in the United States.

Mother Dog Studios



Signed a lease with Bernard Perlmutter to lease 1/2 of his building @ 720 Walnut, Houston, Texas 77002.



Seven studios were developed in first half of building and rented out to 7 artists. City Occupancy was attained.


Second half of building was developed into 8 studios and City Occupancy was attained.


Throughout the years some of the bigger studios were subdivided into smaller studios and others taken over for gallery space, for Mother Dog Museum of Modern Art.  Presently, Mother Dog consists of 17 studios and the large gallery throughout the building for exhibitions.


Charlie Jean Sartwelle and John Runnels are co-directors of Mother Dog Studios. Before leasing the building for 5 years they were in a performance titled, Mantraps: Tales of Fornication by Charlie Jean Sartwelle and performed by John Runnels. This was a performance in a big black box with John inside, nude, performing his daily duties in front of a mirror in a bathroom. He performed such things as trimming his beard, ironing his clothes, sitting on the toliet, drawing, etc. The only way you could see this performance was to peek through the peepholes of the box. A tape recording was going with his story and a photographic wall had stills in black and white of his time in the box. The idea for the performance was to have three sections; childhood, adolescents, and adulthood. John unfortunately only finished the childhood series.


The Houston Post editorial staff writer, Eric Gerber, was at the U of H Lawndale Annex the night of the performance and wrote on the editorial page a tongue-in-cheek review about he and his girlfriend and what they saw. His statement was “Mother Dog, whoever said you could hold Art in a big black box?” Charlie Jean and John were very amused by this, never having heard the expression “Mother Dog.”


Since their warehouse building was across the street from Houston Studios they decided to name the building (being old and distressed looking) Mother Dog Studios, which eventually became a nuturing name. John drew a little dog on a Warren's Inn napkin that became Motherdog. He also came upon a Rilke quote about a poor little mother dog with “accidental puppies.”


A t-shirt with the Motherdog on the front and the Rilke quote on the back was created for sale in black or gray for $15 at Mother Dog Studios.

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