Why must we perpetuate this misconception? Houstonians, cut it out!

I received a comment this evening on a post I made last fall, relating a Houston Business Journal article about the findings of the Houston Endowment’s Arts Impact Study.  The study found that the arts, in their various forms, had a $600 million effect on the city of Houston in 2006.  The study was enlightening and inspiring in so many ways… a quantitative evaluation contradicting the ridiculous notion that Houston is void of a thriving arts culture.  My original post is here.

Someone posted the following comment in response, and while I know he meant no harm, it continually annoys me how quick people are to relent to the misconceptions about Houston.  If we spent half as much time investigating what Houston has to offer as we did complaining about what it doesn’t offer, we might be pleasantly surprised.

His comment:

  • Dear Christine
  • I appreciate that you are demonstrating progress on the Houston art scene. But it needs to go a long way before it can truly claim to be a place for artist. We rarely see street corner artist drawing people or places, or that we have good quality galleries that has some exciting collection. Plus we need to bring some high profile exhibits from around the world like Terra cotta statues got by Los Angeles to bring Houston on the world map. I love houston but we have to be realistic to help Houston emerge as a true art center.

    And my reply:

  • Christine thanks you for your comment.
  • John, I couldn’t disagree more. Houston is a wonderful place for artists. What Houston lacks is proper awareness and marketing. While the notion of artists painting on street corners is romantic, it is not realistic in a commuter city like ours- nor one that boasts our temperatures.

    Forgive me, but to suggest that there aren’t fantastic art happenings occurring every day is uninformed. However, sadly, one cannot be blamed for having that opinion- that is the consensus from the public. Perhaps I am prejudiced, but my organization posts countless gallery openings, exhibitions, and art events every day. Visit http://www.spacetaker.org.

    We have had MANY high profile exhibits in Houston. One clear example: The MFAH was one of only 2 locales visited by MoMA’s Heroic Century collection, including undoubtedly some of the most impressive, iconic pieces in art history. On that note, the MFAH beat out every other art institution in the country in 2006 for charitable donations at $185 million. The Menil boasts one of the most impressive surrealist and African art collections in the world. Between the MFAH, Menil, CAM, Lawndale, Diverseworks, Blaffer, etc., our art scene has room to grow- but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. The terra cotta statues are a treat to present, but the Bowers museum in LA (in which they are displayed) has a long way to go before it compares to the MFAH. (The MFAH’s Cheney exhibit displayed some of China’s most sought after CONTEMPORARY pieces- perhaps it’s more a question of tastes and programming?)

    That’s only visual art. We have one of the best ballet companies in the country- and an opera company that ranks #4 just under the Met, City Opera, and San Francisco.

    I recently sat in a meeting with the staff of Houston’s Fotofest in which they were relating a story about trying to pitch the recent Chinese Fotofest exhibition to CBS. Given the scope and scale of the project, the newsdesk was excited and ready to jump on the story… UNTIL they were reminded that it was in Houston, at which point they decided they were uninterested.  Apparently, the media is bound and determined to paint Houston as a po-dunk oil town. It’s a prejudice and bias that we will continually fight until we start embracing and spreading the word about the wonderful arts culture we do indeed have here in Houston- to spread awareness even within our own city.

    I appreciate the sentiments you share, because you are not alone in harboring them and it affords me an opportunity to respond. Houston has an odd dilemma- we fight the perception that we’re a cowboy oil town within our country…and even within our own city. Yet, art collectors around the world see the value in Houston. I truly wish that instead of succumbing to those prejudices (and even perpetuating them), Houstonians would look a little closer to see the treasures under their noses.

    [end comment]

    Did you hear that, folks?  Stop it!

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    ~ by ladamesansregrets on July 24, 2008.

    2 Responses to “Why must we perpetuate this misconception? Houstonians, cut it out!”

    1. LolaJRS,

      I have to agree that Houston has a wonderful and diverse art scene. I love the MFAH (and we MANY musuems to choose from), the UBS Financial Events, the Starbucks Music events, the MFAH Christmas party, the movie theater and that of course doesn’t include ALL of the art exhibits that are constantly changing and evolving.

      There are a multiple theaters to choose from for plays, we get first class musicians, and the ballet is world class (Sara Webb, a prinicple for the Houston Ballet is my sister-in-law – I’m a bit biased on this one).

      There are literally art events going on every single day. I just renewed my annual membership for the MFAH. I purposely bought the Dual membership so I could bring someone with me for free and with a AAA card it is only $55/year. I got that back in my UBS Financial event (free drinks all night for the both of us =). Here’s the link to sign up for a membership: http://www.mfah.org/member.asp?par1=2&par2=1&par3=1&par4=1&par5=1&par6=1&par7=&lgc=2&eid=&currentPage=

    2. “Houston has an odd dilemma- we fight the perception that we’re a cowboy oil town within our country…and even within our own city. Yet, art collectors around the world see the value in Houston.”

      Alright, see, this is the thing though… We might have this diverse and talent parade of artists, but the institutions in Houston which have the time and care to exhibit diverse and talented individuals, bring them in from the outside world and not from the city itself. Houston is starving itself. And let’s face it, ticket prices aren’t getting any lower. Well, that’s because we have to pay for everyone to come here. Houston is stuck in a rut, where it believes that the best it will ever see comes from places out yonder. It has not, nor will it in the near future, recognize it’s own potential. Now, people like you, Miss Jenni, have a hope and prayer that it will get out of this rut, and frankly it will take people like you to make it clear. I’ve never been much of a, “Let’s turn this wagon train around!” kind of person. I’d rather watch a grand, metaphorical thing such as this fail, and fail miserably, and then pick of the pieces and rebuild. Houston has to learn its lesson. And it won’t until it sees its error. It’s just like tossing a young bird out of its nest.

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