Reflections and New Beginnings


Campaign donors and Museum leadership; Glassell Groundbreaking; Photo by Jenny Antill

Campaign donors and Museum leadership at Glassell Groundbreaking. Photo by Jenny Antill.

As the year comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to pause and reflect on key accomplishments from a few of the museums in the Houston Museum District as well as the exciting changes to come in 2016.

2015 has been a year of evolution for the museums of the Houston Museum District. A number of museums have explored renovations, sought out new acquisitions and initiated groundbreakings, which were just a few of the many changes that have occurred this year in the Museum District.


Holocaust Museum 2

Photo courtesy of Holocaust Museum Houston. 

 Holocaust Museum Houston

After nearly four years of renovation, the Holocaust Museum Houston was pleased to announce the reopening of the internationally acclaimed Danish rescue boat to the public on October 2015. Through a private rededication ceremony hosted by The Honorable Anna Thomsen Holliday Consul of the Kingdom of Denmark, the boat’s reopening marks a new era for the museum. This important artifact teaches visitors a lesson about what the HMH refers to as the upstander. The upstander, in contrast to the bystander, is a reference to the Danes who stood up to save more than 7,200 Jews by transporting them to Sweden in boats much like this one.

In 2016, HMH will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, highlighted by the opening of the exhibit The Butterfly Project. This exhibit began back in 1995 as an educational study program designed to teach young people about the experience of 1.5 million children who were lost during the Holocaust. Since that time, 1.5 million handcrafted butterflies have been collected from students of all ages and will now be part of the museum exhibit, serving as 1.5 million expressions of hope and remembrance. The Butterfly Project will be shared by the museum as a touring exhibit at prominent locations throughout Houston during HMH’s 20th anniversary celebration, and will be on display from March 2016 to March 2017. The exhibit will continue until it becomes a permanent exhibit at the museum.



Photo courtesy of Houston Center for Photography.

Houston Center for Photography

This year, the Houston Center for Photography is celebrating the complete outfitting of the interior of their mobile photography education unit, the Flash Drive. Thanks to the generous support from Texas Women for the Arts and the Philip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the Flash Drive will be unveiled to the public during HCP’s Holiday Family Day on December 12, 2015 from 12pm to 4pm.

This transformation will allow HCP to offer high-quality therapeutic arts experiences at any location accessible by car. Fully equipped with a projector, a sound system, iPads, and with itself serving as a camera obscura, the Flash Drive will demonstrate the science of optics to all who enter. This innovative outreach vehicle enables HCP to extend itself to diverse communities who otherwise may not have total access to photography education. It should provide a creative way to engage patrons in the art of photography.

HCP also has several plans in store for 2016, which include introducing Spanish language gallery materials into their exhibitions, offering dynamic, interdisciplinary programming with experts from within and outside of the arts, and building on the successes of their education and outreach programming by incorporating interactive educational materials into everything they do.


Menil Groundbreaking.

Photo courtesy of The Menil Collection.

The Menil Collection

This past spring marked the groundbreaking celebration for the Menil Drawing Institute (MDI). The ceremony included remarks by Josef Helfenstein, Director, The Menil Collection; Janet Hobby, President, The Menil Foundation; David Breslin, John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Chief Curator, Menil Drawing Institute; Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, Principles, Johnston Marklee; and Annise Parker, Mayor, City of Houston.

Positioned just south of the main museum and the Cy Twombly Gallery, the addition of the MDI to the Menil campus establishes the institution as a center for the exhibition, study and conservation of modern and contemporary drawings.


MFA Shop. Photo by Wilson Parish.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has undertaken a number of impressive renovation steps, which began this fall. These exciting changes were jumpstarted in October 2015 with the groundbreaking of the Fayez S. Sarofim campus and the new Glassell School of Art. The MFAH celebrated in full style with a groundbreaking ceremony that included capital campaign donors, museum trustees and sponsors at the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden. The celebration continued the following evening with a special free edition of MFAH Mixed Media where guests danced to the sounds of DJ Sun, DJ Chicken George and DJ Melodic.

The Fayez S. Sarofim Campus plan will transform the 14 acres of the MFAH property into a pedestrian-friendly cultural zone. The Glassell School has been central to Houston’s art community for nearly three decades, and Steven Holl Architects’ design for its new home, with its open circulation, generous outdoor spaces for performance, and varied gathering places for students of all ages, will allow the school to become a welcoming public gateway to the Museum campus.


mfah cafe

MFA Café. Photo courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

November 2015 also brought about two new changes to the museum. The MFAH announced a new dining facility on the lower level of the Audrey Jones Beck Building – MFA Café as well as the reopening of retail space on first floor of the Beck Building – the MFA Shop.

Formerly known as the MFAH Shop, the MFA Shop has taken on a new identity with a thoughtful selection of products, fresh logo, renovated interior, redesigned displays, and product lines that are unavailable anywhere else in Texas.

The MFA Café, run by Paolo Fronza and Matteo Alessandri, formerly of popular Fellini Caffe in Rice Village, offers visitors Northern Italian fare and a European-style coffee bar. With both of these new additions, the museum has set out to enhance the level of engagement with their visitors, making them an integral part of the Museum Experience.

Written by Elizabeth Benavides