A foodie town? Of course. One of the country’s most diverse cities? You probably knew that. But a cultural hub that offers absolutely astounding opportunities to take in a wide variety of artistic media and styles? That, you may not have known.
Read on for a brief introduction to Houston’s art scene.
5216 Montrose Blvd
Paintings, sculpture, digital media … you’ll find it all at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, which makes its home in an iconic Gunnar Birkerts stainless steel building in the heart of the city’s museum district. The museum is “non collecting” – which means that it has no permanent collection and does not acquire new pieces. It also means that visitors are always in for something new. Expect phenomenal displays of international, national and regional art from the past 40 years. The Brown Foundation Gallery features work by established artists, while the Zilkha Gallery features emerging artists too.
Second Saturday at Sawyer Yards
2101 Winter Street
This former industrial site – made up of eight full city blocks of warehouses and rice silos – has been converted into one of the country’s largest work and art spaces. On the Second Saturday of every month, noon to 5 p.m., the resident artists open their studios to the public. As you wander through six warehouses, you’ll discover works of spanning media including textiles, clothing, painting, jewelry, sculpture, music and more. You’ll also have a chance to meet the artists and perhaps even take a piece or two home with you. The management at Sawyer Yards actively encourages people to linger and, to that end, they’ve added a diverse mix of edible and imbibable diversions. So grab a bite to eat – and perhaps a pint of pilsner or a glass of pinot – and spend the day taking it all in.
If your trip to Houston doesn’t happen to coincide with a Second Saturday, not to worry: Sawyer Yards also hosts scheduled exhibitions, which are also free.
This stunning grass, concrete, stone and steel structure, designed by James Turrell and completed in 2012, was designed to complement the sunrise and the sunset (the hues of which can be viewed through an aperture in the roof) with an LED light show that can be viewed beginning 40 minutes before sunrise and again at 10 minutes before sunset. The structure also hosts performances by Shepherd School of Music students.
Since 1966, 1% of all construction costs on building projects at the University of Houston has been dedicated toward acquiring works of art, and the considerable collection (comprising over 600 works to date), is on display, free of charge at University of Houston, University of Houston at Sugar Land, University of Houston-Downtown, University of Houston-Clear Lake and University of Houston-Victoria. To help further your appreciation, schedule a free guided tour.
Built in 1926 to store 15-million gallons of water for drinking, agriculture and fire suppression, then shut down in 2007 due because of an irreparable leak, the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern was reborn in 2016 as both a tourist attraction in and of itself and a venue for a variety of art installations.
1533 Sul Ross Street
More than just a museum, the Menil Collection is an entire 30-acre neighborhood that’s dedicated to making an absolutely stunning collection available for the public to appreciate. The collection is best known for its collection of Surrealist and modern European painting and sculpture – but visitors will also enjoy Byzantine and medieval art and artifacts, as Pacific Island, African and Pacific Northwest Native art.
Admission: $17 for adults, children under 12 free.
Home of Cloud ColumnI by Anish Kapoor, who also designed Chicago’s Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean,” and founded with a mission to bring art into the everyday life of all Houstonians, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is one of the largest museums in the United States, housing over 64,000 works of art.
4173 Elgin St
The University of Houston’s contemporary art museum was founded by the Sarah Campbell Blaffer, a Houston art patron (who was also the daughter of the founder of Texaco and the wife of the founder of Humble Oil/Exxon). In addition to hosting regularly scheduled exhibitions, the museum also hosts work by University of Houston students and faculty.
1441 West Alabama
Houston Center for Photography is dedicated fostering appreciation of the medium. The center not only hosts a variety of photographic exhibitions, but also offers a wide variety of classes and public workshops.
Wondering what exhibitions and performances will be happening while you’re in town? The Houston Chronicle’s art guide will tell you what you’re in store for while you’re in town.
Looking for an alternative to a hotel– but don’t want the funky inconsistencies typical of a vacation rental? Check out Stay Alfred’s Houston travel apartments.