Art thrives in Houston! Art. Yes, it’s a painting of dogs playing poker, but it’s also the design of a building downtown, the music drifting though a local pub, the latest incarnation of the Astro’s logo, and your favorite TV sit-com.
Art is our culture.
And art and culture are expressions of our lives; they’re everywhere. The arts, and everything they encompass, are tangible manifestations of our civilization, and Houston abounds with them.
Dr. Carolyn Farb is an author, philanthropist, humanitarian and one of Houston’s greatest patron of the arts. And while some might dismiss Houston’s vibrant art scene as Texas bragging, in Dr. Farb’s well-educated view, our city is a major player.
“Houston is the fourth largest museum district in the United States, and this isn’t boasting,” Farb stated quietly. “Houston has everything to offer regarding the arts.
“The combined annual attendance for arts and cultural performances, exhibits and other programs here, is more than 10.7 million people a year.
“And the arts are growing and thriving. In the past 18 years, we’ve added or expanded 10 art museums or galleries, four major theaters or performance centers and 15 science and history museums,” she concluded with a smile.
One of our city’s landmark art events is approaching and all of us — even the most art-adverse — are invited to attend. Starting July 9 and lasting throughout the month, Houstonians can enjoy ArtHouston, a citywide celebration of fine arts involving 35 galleries open for strolling and viewing.
Imagine this: 35 little art museums featuring all kinds of fine art – painting, sculpture, photography, textiles, instillations — and attendance everywhere is free to everyone.
“It’s a big art celebration!” said Betty Moody, owner of Moody Gallery. Moody has owned her gallery since 1975, and held a front-row seat in the development of ArtHouston for most of its 32-year history.
“ArtHouston has become quite a tradition over time; people look forward to it and come to the city to attend. It’s grown tremendously over the years,” Moody said.
“Visitors will see up-and-coming artists, established artists, local, national and international artists. All kinds,” added Mariah Rockefeller, ArtHouston event coordinator. “And the works are for sale. Prices start as low as a $100 and can reach into many, many thousands.
“We designed it so everyone will feel comfortable. It’s casual, and welcoming. In some places in town, there are clusters of galleries so people can stroll the streets from gallery to gallery. People love this event,” Rockefeller concluded.
Still, some remain reticent or uncomfortable with art; there are those who would rather face a root canal than a Rauschenberg any day of the week. Dr. Farb, herself an artist, challenges those who are fine art-phobic to overcome the limitation.
“Art provides and nurtures the civilized spirit in each of us,” she explained. “I see art at every glance.
“Art is life ... it educates, soothes and is compassionate. Each one of us is free to interpret what we internalize when we look at an artwork and how we feel about it – there’s no right or wrong answer. People should not be intimidated when viewing art. It may be a new experience that they should embrace. They need to let the artwork envelope them.”
Farb’s soft voice starts to grow stern.
“We should broaden art programs in our schools, not eliminate them. We are cutting back in areas that should be growing.
“An introduction to the arts should start as young as three or four. Art can help people express themselves — happiness, sadness, what’s inside, how they’re feeling. Art is an integral part of our society; it encourages people to dream and reach beyond themselves,” she concluded.
Apparently, Dr. Farb isn’t the only one who sees it that way.
During World War II, England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill was told that drastic cuts were to be made to the national budget supporting the arts, in an effort to pay for the war.
His answer summed it up.
“Then, what are we fighting for?” he asked.
For a schedule, locations or more information about ArtHouston, go to www.arthouston.com. For more info about Dr. Farb, her books, or the little fellows in the photo, visit www.carolynfarb.com.