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Houston's Must See Under the Radar Art Experiences

Published Jun 09, 2021 by Melissa Fox

art wall

Visitors take selfies at Montrose Paint Wall Mural

Houston is known internationally as a mecca for both performing and visual arts. “Newstonians” and visitors alike know to head to the Downtown Theater District and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for amazing art experiences, but many do not realize just how deep art runs within the city’s culture.

The region is home to hundreds of institutions and local artists dedicated to artistic expression. Houston’s nonprofit arts and culture industry is so robust that it is a large driver for the region’s economy, generating over $1.1 billion in total economic activity

Here are just some of Houston’s under-the-radar art spaces and experiences to help you begin your journey into the city’s world-class art scene. 

The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art 

The same local art treasure that puts on the world-famous Art Car Parade every spring also offers year-round programming that promotes its mission to educate the public on local visionary folk art. 

The Orange Show Monument is an immersive, architectural folk-art piece that includes an oasis, a wishing well, a pond, a stage, a museum and several upper decks. The monument’s creator, Jefferson Davis McKissack, was a local artist and postal worker, who constructed the structure using concrete, brick, steel, as well as objects he found around Houston such as gears, tiles, wagon wheels, mannequins, tractor seats and statuettes. 

Learn more about the Orange Show Monument and the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art’s other eclectic art experiences, including Striker Park, a vibrant “art park” and Houston’s famous Beer Can House (yes, a house made of beer cans). 

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston 

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, or the CAMH as locals call it, is dedicated to presenting the best and most exciting international, national, and regional art of our time and documenting its role in our modern society.  “In times of rapid change, artists see the way through. We know that by trusting artists and working to expand their agency in the public realm, meaning will shine through,” Hesse McGraw, Executive Director of the Contemporary Arts Museum explained in his Director’s Note

As a non-collecting institution, the CAMH hosts six to eight revolving exhibitions each year from internationally recognized artists. Each exhibit is accompanied by a publication, designed for use by scholars, as well as the general public. The museum also hosts lectures, educational programming and events throughout the year. 

Learn more about the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.
 
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft was founded to advance education about the process, product and history of craft, and they do just that by exhibiting works of art that are made of primarily craft materials, including clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood and recycled materials. While strolling through the halls of HCCC you will see the full creative process. 

HCCC is also dedicated to giving artists a place to work and create in the artists' studios in the museum’s Resident Artist Hall. The in-house artists share their love of creating with the general public while also educating them on their craft.  "What is so particular to the cultural community of Houston is its incredible richness and depth," said Perry Price, HCCC Executive Director. "Yes, we have world-class encyclopedic art and science museums, a zoo, opera, ballet, and symphony, but we have an abundance of arts organizations large and small, focused and eclectic, well known and yet to be discovered that, when combined, make Houston arguably the most dynamic arts community in the nation. And we are proud that Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is right in the middle of all of it, helping to champion the makers who make our field so compelling and connecting the public with the role of craft in our lives."

Learn more about the HCCC. 

The Lawndale Art Center

The Lawndale is a contemporary art center that engages Houstonians with exhibitions and programs that explore the social issues of our time. Located in Houston’s historic East End, the Lawndale serves as a gathering place to experience art and ideas. Through its exhibitions and The Big Show, an annual area-wide survey show, the Lawndale has introduced many up and coming artists to the wider public. 

Learn more about the Lawndale.

Houston Museum of African American Culture

The Houston Museum of African American Culture's (HMAAC) mission is “to collect, conserve, explore, interpret and exhibit the material and intellectual culture of Africans and African Americans in Houston, the state of Texas, the southwest and the African Diaspora for current and future generations.” Since opening its doors, the HMAAC has been the most visited African American cultural asset in Houston. 

Learn more about the HMAAC. 

The Station Museum of Contemporary Art 

The Station Museum of Contemporary Art is a forum for local, national and international artists that reflect the cultural diversity of Houston. Through its exhibitions, the museum is committed to showcasing how art plays a critical role in society. The Station also presents film screenings, musical events and lectures that inspire a deeper dialogue and encourages the public to become actively aware of the lives of others.

Learn more about The Station. 

Houston Street Art  

Walking around the streets of Houston can be an art experience all its own. Houston is home to a multitude of awe-inspiring murals. While ever-changing and developing, these murals aim to inspire, educate and show love for our beloved Bayou City. Exploring the streets to seek out street art is an excellent way to explore Houston’s vibrant neighborhoods and learn more about the different cultures within the most diverse city in the nation. 

Discover Houston’s Murals with this interactive map

Learn more about Houston's arts and culture and what's like to live in the nation's fourth largest city

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Houston’s 90th-Minute Play to Host 2026 World Cup

8/25/21
The world’s most popular sporting event is coming to North America in 2026, and Houston’s on a mission to be one of the cities to host it. With viewership for the last FIFA World Cup of more than 3.5 billion, the quadrennial event is one of the most-watched and highly anticipated events for soccer enthusiasts. The 2026 World Cup will be hosted in 16 cities across Canada, Mexico and the United States. Currently, 17 cities in the U.S. are vying for a spot. Only 11 will win the bid to host 60 official matches. Houston’s 2026 World Cup Bid Committee, dedicated to bringing the World Cup to Houston under the direction of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority, continues to push for making Houston a host city. According to Committee President Chris Canetti, hosting six games at NRG Stadium would be equivalent to hosting six Super Bowls. Experts estimate hosting the major event could mean a $1.3 billion economic impact for Houston. In an event hosted by the Partnership in 2019, Canetti said Houston’s diversity makes the city a strong contender to secure a spot. “Soccer is indeed the world’s game, and Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the country. So some might say it’s a perfect match.” The Federal International Football Association, FIFA, is expected to visit Houston in the coming months as an important step in deciding host venues. The Art of Soccer is one of the Houston committee’s latest campaigns. The project invited companies to financially back the bid in a fun and creative way by collaborating with Houston artists to decorate soccer balls. Similar to a soccer match approaching the final 90th-minute mark, this initiative is one of Houston's final plays to host the 2026 World Cup. Joseph Macas is one of those artists. He’s an instructor at the Houston School of Art & Design. We chatted with Macas about the soccer ball he decorated for the campaign.  How did you become a part of the Art of Soccer project? As an instructor for the Houston School of Art & Design, the school has been involved with painting some of the soccer balls for various clients: Enbridge, Region’s Bank, Intel, NRG/Reliant and Sugar Land. When the Chevron Houston Marathon inquired about having their soccer ball painted, my supervisor Amber Cleveland informed them that I am going to run in the 2022 Houston Chevron Marathon. They thought that it would be awesome for me to paint the ball as both an artist and marathon runner.  I had already been painting soccer balls under the artist Amy Malkan and Shell.  I was already signed up and training for the Houston Marathon before the client came to the school. I was super excited to be able to work and design a soccer ball of my own. It just felt like the perfect fit. How was this project important to you on a personal and professional level? I would say that this was my first big project outside of teaching. Professionally, this was a huge step towards working for larger clients. This project really gave me the platform to showcase some of my abilities to design and paint. On a personal level, it's just been amazing to work on something for the city, especially in relation to the World Cup. All my friends in Houston are excited about it and my parents are proud that my artwork is being showcased. I'm just grateful to be part of the experience of it all and contribute. What inspired your artwork for this project? After talking with the client, we agreed on the theme of running around the world. We used the soccer ball as a giant globe. Medals are placed to showcase where major marathons are run across the world and are connected by footsteps.  I think it was very important for those viewing the soccer ball to be able to say, "hey there's my home country," and then follow the footsteps around the world. Moreover, I think it was important that the trajectory of the footsteps resemble a heartbeat to signify the connection that we share through sports. Showcasing Houston, they are crossing the finish line at the Chevron Houston Marathon. As a native Houstonian, how would you pitch Houston's pitch to FIFA? We've got beer, brisket and bodies of water. What more can you ask for?  Learn more about the Art of Soccer project and explore Houston’s arts and culture scene. 
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