HOUSTON

MFAH EXPANDS WITH NEW BUILDING

The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from above. © Richard Barnes, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Where shall we begin?

This query becomes both a practical question when exploring the recently-unveiled Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and a way of contemplating the Kinder’s impact on the landscape of the museum campus, the city of Houston and even the international art world.

Perhaps we should start with the fundamentals: the concrete and steel skeleton wrapped in an arced glass, half-tubular skin. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the white, three-story structure occupies 237,213 square feet and finally gives a showcasing home to the MFAH’s vast collection of modern and contemporary art.

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FORT WORTH

AFTON BATTLE TAKES THE LEAD AT THE FORT WORTH OPERA

Afton Battle, General Director of Fort Worth Opera.

When Afton Battle entered Amarillo College, she majored in business while studying voice as a sideline. Then she traveled in a school group to a singing contest in Dallas-Fort Worth, where they took time out to attend a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata–the tragic tale of a courtesan who sacrifices her chance at true love in order to save her sweetheart’s honor.

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DALLAS

OUR STORIES ONSTAGE: HOW DALLAS GREW ONE OF THE NATION’S BIGGEST LGBTQ THEATER COMPANIES

Uptown Players presents Fun Home, with music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, and based on the Graphic Novel by Alison Bechdel, April 10 – April 26 at Kalita Humphreys Theater. Pictured: Adult Alison – Leslie Marie Collins, Middle Alison – Emily Truelove and Small Alison – Summer Stern. Photo by Mike Morgan.

Nearly 20 years ago, Craig Lynch and Jeff Rane took a look around Dallas and noticed a gap. Despite having the sixth-biggest population of LGBTQ people in the nation and a reputation as one of the country’s most gay-friendly cities, no theater company in Dallas was regularly producing theater that told this community’s stories.

So the two friends headed to the Trinity River Arts Center and staged Howard Crabtree and Mark Waldrop’s musical revue When Pigs Fly!, which they had seen off-Broadway earlier that year. Oh, and it was a week after September 11, 2001.

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FORT WORTH

THE VISUAL MANIFESTO OF MARK BRADFORD AT THE MODERN

Eve, 2001. Mixed media on canvas. 72 × 84 inches. JP Morgan Chase Art Collection. © Mark Bradford.

Mark Bradford enrolled in California Institute of the Arts in 1991 as an adult student. He was a decade older than his classmates and was raised at a different time for art. He was an amateur student of Abstract Expressionism, but at the progressive institution, the curriculum emphasized critiquing the field, blending identity and politics and experimenting with other forms of media, such as video, performance and installation art.

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FORT WORTH

NEFERTARI’S EGYPT ON VIEW AT KIMBELL ART MUSEUM

Francesco Ballerini, Edoardo Baglione, and Michelangelo Pizzio, Italian Model of Nefertari’s Tomb, early 1900s. Wood, Provv. 3749, Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy.

For those Texans seeking art refuge this weary winter, the Kimbell Art Museum has a queen’s knees of an exhibition to transport us back 3000 years into the world of Queen Nefertari’s Egypt (now through March 14).

Filled with extraordinary art and artifacts from Turin, Italy’s Museo Egizio, one of the oldest and important museums dedicated to Egyptian antiquities, this exhibition not only introduces us to the favorite queen of Pharaoh Ramesses II, but also gives a glimpse into the real lives and deaths of queens, artists and commoners.

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ACROSS THE LONE STAR STATE

OPEN AIR PERFORMANCE IN TEXAS

Audience watching ROOTED: Envisage Dance Installations by B.MOORE DANCE in AT&T Center for Performing Arts’ Strauss Square. Photo by Nate Hehalander.

As a pandemic spring spun into summer, it seemed all the performing arts world became a virtual stage and all the men and women remote players. Yet for those Texas artists and audiences yearning for a time of live, in-person performances again, a gentle, albeit hot, summer breeze blew in one possible solution.

“Numerous studies have shown that audiences are more comfortable returning to live, in-person performances outdoors,” explains Debbie Storey, CEO of AT&T Performing Arts Center, one of the first venues in Texas to bring performances back to audiences with the reopening of their Strauss Square outdoor facility.

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SAN ANTONIO

SAN ANTONIO COLLECTOR/VISIONARY ROBERT L.B. TOBIN AT THE MCNAY

Robert L. B. Tobin with works by Eugene Berman at the exhibition of Tobin’s collection at the Grolier Club, New York, 1983.

Standing six-foot-six, sporting a luxuriant silver mane and beard, decked out on formal occasions in flamboyant capes, he turned heads from Texas to New York. A lover of opera and theater, he amassed thousands of books, renderings, models and other items documenting centuries of theatrical design–now a calling card of San Antonio’s McNay Museum of Art.

To a generation that has come along since his death in 2001, though, the lifelong San Antonian is only a shadowy figure. The McNay returns him to the spotlight with Robert L.B. Tobin: Collector, Curator, Visionary.

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HOUSTON

STARTING FROM SCRATCH: JENNIFER MABUS BUILDS A DANCE BFA AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

University of St. Thomas Dance Program Chair, Jennifer Mabus, teaching a Modern Dance Class in the studio at the Jerabeck Center on the campus of the University of St. Thomas. Photo by Lynn Lane.

2019 was a year of firsts for the University of St. Thomas (UST) in Houston and its Dance Program Chair Jennifer Mabus as the school’s inaugural cohort of dance majors stepped into the studio for the fall semester.

The story of a brand new BFA program in dance doesn’t begin there, of course. Mabus, a Dallas native and Southern Methodist University dance alum was a founding member of Battleworks Dance Company in New York before returning to her home state where she completed an MFA at Sam Houston State  University (SHSU). She’s danced with Bruce Wood DanceNobleMotion Dance  and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, and is a founding core collaborator of Houston’s Transitory Sound and Movement Collective. As adjunct faculty at several Texas institutions of higher education, Mabus has nurtured many aspiring young dancers and, as a choreographer, she has set works on dance companies throughout the Texas Triangle.

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ACROSS THE LONE STAR STATE

THE MUSIC PLAYS ON: TEXAS ORCHESTRAS PIVOT IN 2021

Houston Symphony Executive Director John Mangum introduces a performance to the online audience.

Some Houston Symphony concert goers may not realize that Jones Hall, the orchestra’s home, has two balconies. Not only is the upper one barely noticeable from the main floor, but the orchestra usually doesn’t even unlock it during classical concerts, because the other levels offer more than enough seats.

The size of Jones Hall and other cities’ similar venues helps make Texas’ orchestras some of the state’s few groups that can perform nowadays to in-person audiences–albeit in setups re-engineered in hopes of thwarting the virus. After throwing out pre-pandemic plans that now don’t work, the ensembles are crafting concert programs and guest-artist rosters on the fly.

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DALLAS

TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND EXPLORES NEW IDEAS WHILE (SAFELY) WELCOMING AMERICA’S TOP DANCE COMPANIES

The Parsons Dance company. Photo by Travis Magee.

Since its founding in 1982, TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND has been all about bringing the best of the arts to North Texas. The 2020-21 season had been planned to expand upon this mission by featuring, for the first time ever, an all-American lineup of visiting dance companies—until the coronavirus happened. But according to executive and artistic director Charles Santos, in some ways the pandemic has created more opportunities for TITAS, not fewer.

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AUSTIN

THE NEW NORMAL: THE 2020 AUSTIN STUDIO TOUR GOES DIGITAL

Rapier Studio. Courtesy of the artist.

In a normal year, hundreds of Austin art studios and workshops would fill with thousands of visitors next week. Participants would spend days meeting local artists, artisans, and craftspeople, buying art, networking, and socializing at the Austin Studio Tour, the city’s most accessible and most beloved annual art event. But this is not a normal year. So how do you hold a free, city-wide art tour at a time when people—especially strangers and large groups—are supposed to avoid each other at all costs?

In 2020, the ongoing threat of COVID-19 has forced the Austin Studio Tour (Nov. 14-22) to make huge changes to its programming. In an effort to protect public health, all aspects of the event will take place either online or outdoors. “It is drastically different from anything we’ve ever done, and drastically different from what people expect and have come to love about the tour,” Shea Little told me in a recent Zoom call. Little is the Executive Director of Big Medium, and has produced the East and West Austin Studio Tours for the past 18 years.

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HOUSTON

SOCIETY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS GOES DIGITAL

Manuel Cinema.

Radical reinvention: That’s what Meg Booth, chief executive officer for Society for the Performing Arts, sees in this time when artists and audiences must stay separate to stay safe.

“I think this is where I find hope; we’re really starting to see artists radically reinvent what they do,” Booth said in a recent conversation with Arts and Culture Texas. “There are so many who can’t practice their performance art, their creativity, in the ways that they typically have done it, but they’re reinventing because so many artists are called to create.”

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