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'It might not be a path you expect' | Freedmen's Town Labyrinth celebrates legacy of neighborhood, former church

In the footprint of a 10,000-square-foot church, Reginald Adams designed a labyrinth using the bricks that remained.

HOUSTON — What was once a historic Houston church is now a different kind of sacred space -- one that's mesmerizing, almost hypnotic.

"It’s an opportunity to quiet your mind, stay within this path that has one way in and one way out," said public artist Reginald Adams.

He co-designed and constructed the Freedmen’s Town Labyrinth, a project that started in 2014.

"Kind of like life in that it has its twists and turns and it might not be a path you expect or were thinking of following," Ellis Owens said.

Like its winding path, the labyrinth has a story you might not expect. This site was home to Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church for nearly 100 years.

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"Ten years ago, the church collapsed," Adams explained.

Forced to find a new home, the congregation still wanted to celebrate its longtime place of prayer.

"I work on large-scale murals, so I wasn’t afraid of size," Adams said.

In the footprint of the 10,000-square-foot church, he designed a labyrinth that used the bricks that remained to line its path.

"I remember working in the sun on weekends, moving gravel, laying down bricks, all of that," Owens shared.

Then in middle school, he helped with the labyrinth's design and construction as part of the group Sacred Sites Quest, a non-profit service group focused on cultural, social and creative awareness.

"It’s really pretty awesome," Owens said.

The project ignited a passion in him, pushing Owens to continue his work with Sacred Sites Quest. He's visited multiple countries to create labyrinths there. In Summer 2023, he'll lead a group of students traveling to India.

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"When I saw how this labyrinth began to transform this community and the effect it was having on the young people I was working on it with, I was like, ‘This needs to be part of my work,’" Adams said. "And it has been since then."

He's worked on labyrinths on beaches, at retreats, and in parks using light, leaves or even donated food.

"Every labyrinth serves its own unique purpose based on the community and the people it will serve," Adams said.

This one in the middle of Houston's Freedmen's Town celebrates the legacy of the neighborhood and the church that once stood here.

"It’s here until other forces say otherwise," Adams said.

To learn more about Adams' work, click here.

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