Houston Arts & Culture

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Houston is a multicultural city with a thriving international community supported by the third largest concentration of consular offices in the United States, representing 86 nations. In addition to historical Southeast Texas culture, Houston became the fourth-most populous city in the United States. Officially, Houston is nicknamed the “Space City” as it is home to NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, where Mission Control Center is located. “Houston” was the first word spoken on the moon. Many locals refer to Houston as “Bayou City.” Other nicknames include “H-Town”“Clutch City”, and “Magnolia City”.

About 90 languages are regularly spoken in the Houston area. Some neighborhoods with high populations of Vietnamese and Chinese residents have Chinese and Vietnamese street signs in addition to English ones. Houston has two Chinatowns—the original located in East Downtown and the other along Bellaire Boulevard in the southwest area of the city. The city also has a Little Saigon in Midtown and Vietnamese businesses located in the southwest Houston Chinatown.

There are many popular events held in the city celebrating cultures of Houstonians. The largest is the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that is held over 20 days from late February through early March. The event begins with trail rides that originate from several points throughout the state, all of which convene at Reliant Park for a barbecue cook-off. The rodeo includes typical rodeo events, as well as concert performances from major artists and carnival rides. Another large celebration is the annual Houston Gay Pride Parade held at the end of June to commemorate the struggle for gay liberation, gay rights, gay pride, and the Stonewall riots of the late 1960s in New York City. The event is held in Downtown Houston (2015 and beyond) – prior to 2014 the parade was held along Westheimer Road within Neartown—home to many gay establishments, such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and coffeehouses. Other events held annually include the Houston Greek Festival and Houston International Festival.

Anna Rohleder of Forbes said “Among Houston’s wealthy denizens, social life centers on charity events and the arts.”

Arts and theater

Alley Theatre

Houston’s Theater District is ranked second in the country (behind New York City) in the number of theatre seats in a concentrated downtown area with 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,480 movie seats. The Theater District is located in the heart of downtown and is home to nine of Houston’s performing arts organizations and six performance halls. Houston is one of only five cities in the United States with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines: opera (Houston Grand Opera), ballet (Houston Ballet), music (Houston Symphony Orchestra), and theatre (Alley Theatre). The city has visual and performing arts organizations, along with a dose of homegrown folk art such as Art Cars. Houston is widely recognized as an important city for contemporary visual arts. The city is a stop for touring companies from Broadway, concerts, shows, and exhibitions for a variety of interests, ranging from the nation’s largest quilting show to auto, boat, home, and gun shows.

Houston’s theatre scene is far larger than the Theatre District, with more than 30 professional, regional, and community theatre companies producing full seasons of theatrical productions. The most notable being the Alley Theatre, founded in 1947, the Alley is the only theatre in Texas to win the Tony Award for best Regional Theatre and is the third oldest professional theatre in America. The Alley produces a variety of classical and modern works annually. Throughout its history the Alley has produced numerous world premiers and productions that transferred to Broadway. Theatre Under the Stars, is Houston’s premier musical theatre company, which performs in residence at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and produces an admission free musical every summer at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Other notable theaters include The Ensemble Theatre, which gives voice to the African-American community and Talento Bilingüe de Houston, which spotlights playwrights and actors who express the Latino experience in America. Other significant theatres include Main Street Theater, with its broad spectrum of classical and contemporary classics, the quirky Theatre Suburbia, which has developed a reputation in the Houston arts community for showcasing local playwrights emphasizing a peculiarly Texas perspective, Stages Repertory Theatre, which focuses on bringing original works and regional premiers to Houston, Catastrophic Theatre Company, a “pay what you can company” that produces experimental theatre, Stark Naked Theatre, a theatre company founded by actors to empower their own work, and Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre, which showcases plays featuring strong females. Current information about these theatre companies, venues and performances is available through the Houston Arts Alliance web site.

Adjacent to the Texas Medical Center is the Museum District, which is home to most of the city’s major museums: the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Cullen Sculpture Garden, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Children’s Museum of Houston, Lawndale Art Center, the Houston Zoo, the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science, and The Menil Collection. Approximately 4 million people visit institutions in the Museum District every year.

Houston has an international flavor and is home to several multicultural arts organizations including: MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts), Kuumba House Dance Theatre, and Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say.