I was driving on California’s famed Highway 1 to get to my aunt’s house one summer and I was listening to NPR. They were doing a show on Houston’s modern music scene and as I rolled past the beautiful nature, I realized where California has beauty, we have an interesting and diverse arts and culture scene. Like our wild live oak trees, our creative organizations are growing and changing and connecting all the time. I’m a long-time arts fan and chronicler of Houston’s organizations – first as a young child who was exposed to companies like the Houston Symphony, Houston Ballet and Alley Theatre, and since 2004, through GISH PICKS: CURATED CULTURE FOR KIDS & ADULTS (www.GishPicks.com). My mind is so boggled by all that’s happening out there each week that I created my PICKS to narrow down the choices to three for adults, three for kids each weekend. As I wrote this article, I realized yet again that there is an amazing array of choices. Please note this is a small fraction of the organizations I love.
Houston is the most diverse city in the country so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention just a few of the organizations representing rich influences from around the world: the Alliance Française de Houston (www.alliancehouston.org), which was founded in 1923; the 39-year-old Arab American Cultural and Community Center (www.acchouston.org); the Italian Cultural and Community Center (www.iccchouston.com); and the Czech Center Museum Houston (www.czechcenter.org), the last two located in the Museum District.
We are full of film organizations that present screenings and festivals on a regular basis: the Aurora Picture Show (www.aurorapictureshow. org) is celebrating their 20th anny in June; Worldfest (www.worldfest.org) has an annual festival in April and Cinema Arts Society (www.cinemartsociety.org) has one each November. 14 Pews (www.14Pews.org) will remain open despite previous plans to close, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (www.mfah.org) is expanding to a second theatre for films. In the theatre arena, both Catastrophic Theatre (www.catastrophictheatre.com) and Rec Room Arts (www.recroomarts.org) present edgy, unusual and often funny shows while Ensemble Theatre (www.ensemblehouston.com) focuses on African American stories and Mildred’s Umbrella (www.mildredsumbrella.com) focuses on works by women.
We have museums for everything in Houston! There’s the National Museum of Funeral History (www.nmfh.org); the Houston Maritime Museum (www.houstonmaritime.org); and two that are being updated: the Printing Museum (www.printingmuseum.org) and the Holocaust Museum (www.hmh.org). And if you’re looking for quirky/outsider art, be sure to check out the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art (www.orangeshow.org) and its projects: the Orange Show Monument, Smither Park, the Beer Can House and the Houston Art Car Parade.
And, finally, here are a few dance and music organizations I recommend checking out. Interesting programs are happening at METdance (www.metdance.org); Dance of Asian America (www.danceaa.org); and Ad Deum Dance Company (www.danceaddeum.com). Bayou City Performing Arts (www.bcpahouston.org) is home to the Bayou City Women’s Chorus and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston, and the International Voices Choir (www.voiceshouston.org) has the mission of “global harmony in a divided world.”
Art must move me, open me to new worlds and make me think. All these organizations have done that in one way or another. I hope this inspires you to explore all the arts and culture Houston has to offer!