Art is Everywhere
Springtime is the perfect time to highlight some of the best places across the city to experience art. We’ve put together a showcase of some of the more unexpected places to encounter art both within the Museum District and at public spaces around town. With 19 museums, the scenic, tree-lined blocks of the Houston Museum District offer endless opportunities to explore art, culture, science, history and more. Ten of the museums are always free, and all the rest offer free hours at specific times, often on Thursdays.
Even at the museums, artful moments can happen in unexpected places. Lawndale Art Center debuted a new mural for 2015 by Jonathan Leach on its north exterior wall. Entitled Ghost Grid, the mural plays off the building’s architecture and features a hardline geometric style with an emphasis on bright color and spatial illusion. Leach used the three windows as a base grid structure that warps and changes, highlighted by reflective paint accents that activate the mural at night. See a time lapse video of the mural’s installation here. And keep your eye on Lawndale’s wall for future mural installations, which change during the first few months of each year.
The tunnel linking The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Caroline Wiess Law Building with the Audrey Jones Beck Building features James Turrell’s The Light Inside. The etherial installation turns the walls of the tunnel into vessels for conducting light. And, of course the Isamu Noguchi-designed Cullen Sculpture Garden offers more than 20 works in the easily accessible outdoor space at the corner of Montrose and Bissonnet.
At the Children’s Museum of Houston, architect Tom Luckey’s PowerTower located within the PowerPlay exhibit is equal parts sculpture and climbing structure. The 40-foot tower’s avant-garde lily pad steps and five miles of connecting steel aircraft cables emphasize the exhibit’s premise of play, power and potential.
Moving beyond the museums, Hermann Park is home to many notable works of art, including former Core Fellow Sharon Englestein’s curious Dillidiidae sculpture and Trenton Doyle Hancock’s fantastical mural, which can only be experienced while riding the park’s railroad through the train tunnel. For a glimpse of the variety of works displayed, both past and present, refer to Hermann Park’s Art in the Park page.
The nearby Hotel ZaZa features a range of artwork both inside the historic hotel and on the building’s exterior. Look for Marilyn Minter’s work on the outer wall of the hotel and another inside the hotel, which promote the current exhibition of her work at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Within the hotel, numerous large-scale paintings in colorful palettes depict festive revelers and curious crowds, including a custom commission by Dallas artist Reg Land.
A few blocks away, the Texas Medical Center is currently hosting an exhibition of the National Parks Photography Project Limited Edition Print Preview at the TMC Executive Suite located in the John P. McGovern Commons (6550 Bertner Avenue, 6th Floor, Houston, Texas 77030). Visitors are welcome to explore Houston-area photographer Mark Burns’ 33 stunning black and white prints featuring awe-inspiring landscape scenes from more than 25 National Parks throughout the country. The prints are on display for a limited engagement preview prior to the opening of the National Parks Photography Project on November 30, 2015 at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station. The preview exhibit in Houston continues through the end of May.
Venturing to downtown Houston, City Hall and its plaza hosts a variety of artwork.The most accessible displays are around the reflecting pool and in the tunnel under Bagby Street that connects City Hall to the Annex.
“One of the new and exciting exhibits we have is right in front of City Hall by the Reflecting Pool,” says Minnette Boesel, the Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs. Hanging from one of the trees, we presently have art balloons by artist David Graeve. The balloons range in size and illuminate at night. Close by, on the plaza of City Hall is an amazing wood sculpture by artist Patrick Renner, creator of the Funnel Tunnel on Montrose. This freestanding structure was inspired by an art deco detail Patrick noticed on the entrance doors of City Hall.”
A major exhibit space at City Hall is in the tunnel to the Annex. “Hundreds of people use this connector each day,” says Boesel. “Rotating exhibits have included the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo student artwork, varying Houston artists, exhibits that focus on partnerships with Houston’s consular corps and Sister Cities including Mexico and Tampico and artworks commemorating Citizenship Month. Currently, we have finalists from the Mayor’s Annual Art Scholarship Award program for 11th and 12th graders.”
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Also downtown, the JW Marriott Houston Downtown is an artfully designed hotel located in the historic Samuel F. Carter Building. The hotel’s extensive art collection was assembled to complement the interior design and pay homage to the thriving local and Texas arts scene with genuine art works, and not prints, which are typically used in commercial spaces. The hotel commissioned 18 original works by Texas, national and international artists – from sculptures to paintings and even graffiti on canvas, and seven signature furniture pieces, which are now displayed throughout the hotel.
The general art collection was curated by the neighboring The Esperson Gallery and is displayed in the Gallery Level, with the exception of Taft McWhorter’s three paintings, which adorn the main registration area. The Gallery Level is open to the public – both through the hotel entrance and through the downtown tunnel access (unless there is a private event taking place in one of the Picasso Rooms).
Art on the Fly
When flying in and out of the area, the array of art in the Houston’s Airports can provide moments of inspiration for travelers. Art is truly “everywhere” at both Hobby and Bush IAH – there are a total on 191 works to be enjoyed, 26 permanently installed works and 165 portable works. “The airport participates in the City’s percent for art at a great level: 1.75% of our capital improvement projects go towards civic art,” says Tommy Gregory, Public Art Program Curator for the Houston Airport System. “I personally enjoy all of the collection, it is as diverse as the city itself, with sophistication, humor and whimsy.”
Gregory explains that two of the most visible pieces are marquee permanent works at the entrances of each airport. “At Hobby Airport, Take Off by Houston-based artists Paul Kittelson and Carter Ernst is a very successful and celebrated gateway piece for the airport,” says Gregory. “At Bush Intercontinental, internationally known Dennis Oppenheim’s work, Radiant Fountains, is the gateway installation. Both are large sculptural works that have a presence both day and night.”