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Houston Newswire

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Bikesharing Booms in H-Town

posted on: 07/16/2014

Bikesharing is growing in Houston.

The city's B-Cycle program that launched in 2012 with just three stations has dramatically expanded, both in terms of stations and usage.

In the first six months of this year, B-Cycle logged more than 43,500 checkouts, according to data published by the Houston Chronicle. The system now has 29 stations, well above the three stations it launched with in 2012. Program administrators hope to expand the program to include 100 stations by 2017.

In the month of June alone, the program averaged 220 checkouts per day.

The B-Cycle program allows riders to check out bikes with a daily, monthly or annual pass. Costs range from just $5 for the day to $65 for an annual membership. Once they have a membership, each time a rider checks out a bike it's free for the first hour and $2 for every 30 minutes after that.

So what's the most popular spot to check out a bike? The Houston Zoo station nabbed that honor, with more than 4,500 checkouts in the first six months of the year. The Sabine Bridge and Spotts Park kiosks, both on Buffalo Bayou, ranked second and third.

Read more on the Houston Chronicle and check out the full list of stations on the B-Cycle site



Charles James: A Thin Wall of Air at The Menil Collection

posted on: 07/02/2014

Charles James: A Thin Wall of Air is featured this Summer from May 31 through September 7 at The Menil Collection. The term "a thin wall of air" was coined by James's close friend Bill Cunningham to describe what James called the area where the possibilities of design were

Charles James
Photograph by Paul Hester

found: the gap between the fabric and the body.

This atypical exhibit focuses on the works of Charles James, the first couturier, commissioned for his friends the de Menils. Born in 1906 in London, Charles James began his fashion career as a milliner, but once he moved to New York he became widely known for his new style of dressmaking. James focused on the curves of the body, often hand-sewing, cutting and draping fabrics specifically fit for each client. This new approach to design inspired the "New Look", where outfits were nipped in to the waist then blossomed out to flowing skirts.

The showing displays the one of kind pieces James designed specifically for Dominique de Menil, including her evening gowns, daywear, coats, and the furniture James selected for the de Menil home.

The de Menils enlisted James for his only foray into interior design for their home in River Oaks in 1950. The stark modernism of the home contrasted sharply with James's bright, fluid style. James draped the walls in unique combinations of mauve, aqua, fuschia and butterscotch, and brought in furniture pieces the likes of which included a lip shaped loveseat, and a curvaceous lounge with a yellow underbelly.

The de Menils were close personal friends of Charles James and as longtime supporters of his work, The Menil Collection honors his artistry and the de Menils role in his expanding range of work.


Business Insider: Houston the Best City in America

posted on: 07/02/2014

Houston has a new moniker thanks to the editors of Business Insider: best city in America.

The business publication cites 18 reasons why the Bayou City is tops in the nation -- everything from job growth and great food to low cost of living and diversity.

Business Insider calls Houston an "economic juggernaut" and offers praise for the city's job creation prowess, abundant green space and even its prolific hip hop scene.

Click here to read more of the 18 reasons Houston is the best place in the country.


Houston’s Largest Mural Unveiled in Midtown

posted on: 06/19/2014

Houston is packed with business, and along with it, commercial buildings. But take a city like Houston, which also boasts a robust arts community and you'll find that even a nondescript 30-year-old commercial building can serve as a canvas to Houston's creative.

Standing more than 60 feet tall and 180 feet wide, Artist Sebastien "Mr. D" Boileau took his vision for the mural, titled "Preservons La Creation" (Let's Preserve the Creation), to 2800 San Jacinto Street.

There, he created Houston's largest mural to date.

Through a partnership with the Texan-French Alliance for the Art's "Open Door" project and the Midtown District, the self-taught artist from Paris got to work. With the assistance of George Holder, Erick Calvio and two 65-foot boom lifts, Boileau applied more than 500 cans of spray paint and 150 gallons of wall paint throughout the month of May to realize the piece.
The result is a staggering portrait of God, arms outstretched, spray paint can in hand, along 8,000 square feet.

The catch? The building is for sale and will most likely be torn down to make way for a higher density property. But Urban Real Estate Developer Adam Brackman, who invited Boileau to paint the building, said in a statement that he'll continue to enlist muralists to enliven a neighborhood, even if temporary.

"The highest and best use for that property is higher density. But graffiti brings attention to the beauty that be there," Brackman told the Houston Chronicle.

* Photo courtesy of Matthew Landry


Miller Outdoor Theater Kicks of their FREE Summer of Fun

posted on: 06/05/2014

Miller Outdoor Theatre, the premier outdoor theater for performing arts, has unleashed a full schedule of summer events. But that's not the best news. It's free! That's right, check out the lineup and plan fun summer events that won't cost you a penny.

Miller Outdoor Theatre offers the most diverse professional entertainment of any Houston performance venue, including classical music, jazz, ethnic music and dance, ballet, Shakespeare, musical theater, classic films and much more. Relax in the covered seating area or enjoy a pre-performance picnic on the hillside.

Some events offer ticketed assigned seating in the covered area. Assigned seat tickets are available at the Miller Theatre Box Office on first-come first-serve basis between 10:30 am and 1:00 pm on the day of the performance with a limit of four tickets per person.

Miller Outdoor Theatre's BYOB policy allows guests to bring their own beverages and food to performances. Note that glass containers and bottles are prohibited.

There are a lot of events to choose from, but here are a handful of happenings for the month of June:

  • "Swing, Jive, and Pop into Dance," performed by the MET Dance company, incorporates history, fashion, and music, on June 4 at 11 a.m.
  • The classic 1987 movie Big is now a musical. Check out the Theatre Under The Stars' Humphreys School of Musical Theatre rendition of the story about a young boy who makes a wish at a carnival machine to be an adult on June 13 and June 14 at 8:15 p.m.
  • Get down with the Accordion Kings and Queens as they celebrate their 25th anniversary on June 7 at 6 p.m. The show features performances by Mark Halata & Texavia and C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band.
  • Houston's Juneteenth Celebration highlights the rich African American musical traditions of Texas and the Gulf Coast. Performances featuring Allen Toussaint, Ruthie Foster, Curtis Poullard and the Creole Zydeco Band and more are set for June 19 at 7 p.m. 
  • The Houston Symphony performs their ongoing ExxonMobil summer concert series featuring vocalists Jonathan Beedle and AJ Swearingen on June 20-21 and June 27-28 at 8:30 each night.

Check out Miller Outdoor Theatre Events for more details about these happenings and other events.

For other FREE ideas throughout the summer, check out this itinerary. You can also check out Houston's CityPass or our coupons page for additional discounts.


The Heights Outdoor Sculpture Project: "True North"

posted on: 05/12/2014

Houston Heights neighborhood has long been recognized as a community that not only supports the arts but is home to many of the country's top artists. That distinction is about to get even better.

Gus Kopriva, owner of Redbud Gallery on 11th Street, spearheaded a large-scale public art exhibition titled "True North" along the esplanade of Heights Boulevard as part of a larger initiative to expand the placement of public art pieces throughout the city.

The esplanade, a declared Scenic Right of Way from White Oak Bayou to 20th Street, has long been a place for people to enjoy, with native treescapes, flower gardens, drinking fountains, jogging trails, benches and gazebos. But now, in partnership with the City's Parks and Public Works departments, the area is also a major location for public art exhibits.

The goal of the "True North" sculpture project is to organize an exhibition that showcases and recognizes local works of contemporary art by Texas artists in a setting that is accessible to the entire community.

The sculptures will remain through November 2014, but if you spot a piece of art you love, all eight pieces are for sale, from $5,000 to 28,000. The project was made possible through Houston Arts Alliance and City of Houston grants, along with private donations.

Participating artists include Carter Ernst, Dan Havel, Paul Kittelson, Lee Littlefield, Patrick Medrano, Steve Murphy, Dean Ruck, and Ed Wilson.



$25 Million MATCH Project Breaks Ground

posted on: 05/09/2014

What started a decade ago as a small idea for how Houston arts groups could share space and services has grown to become one of the most innovative collaborations in the nation's arts scene. And with a groundbreaking this week, that concept will soon become a reality.

The Midtown Art & Theatre Center Houston (MATCH) is a $25 million development at the intersection of Main and Holman streets. The nearly 60,000-square-foot facility will bring together several performing and visual arts groups under one roof, creating a new hub for the arts in a vibrant part of Midtown.

"There isn't a model like this in the country," says Emily Todd, board chair of MATCH. "We're creating it, and if it's successful, it's certainly possible that other cities and other arts communities will look to MATCH as an example of how to do this right."

Todd says with a myriad of small and midsized arts groups in town, many often fly under the radar. "What we're hoping to realize with MATCH is a facility that will house a number of different Houston arts organizations in one central place where people-local patrons and visitors alike-can see the richness of what we have here."

But it takes more than a good concept to make such a venture successful. As the idea began to percolate among the arts groups through the years, a board was formed and a study conducted to examine the need. Once the need was established, location was key and a search for the right spot began. Meanwhile, the area sometimes referred to as Mid-Main where Main Street intersects with Alabama has become a hotbed of activity in recent years. Monica Pope's Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, Marcus Davis' Breakfast Klub and the live music haven Continental Club have acted as anchors for the two-square-block enclave. The nearby Ensemble Theater and the HCC/Ensemble rail stop also help draw traffic. Those factors helped MATCH see promise in an available block just to the north.

"Being located between Downtown and the Museum District, we're at a crossroads really," Todd says. "It's also connected north-south and east-west to most of the city's major universities. It was really fortuitous that this piece of property became available at the right time."

Todd says what makes MATCH different from other projects is that it didn't originate with a big arts organization or the city itself. Rather it was a grassroots effort, one where the independent arts groups themselves came together to chart a new course.
With this week's groundbreaking, construction is expected to be complete by late spring or early summer 2015. That should give MATCH and the resident arts groups enough time to prepare for a fall opening, just in time for the start of the performing arts season.

In addition to performance spaces, a gallery and a flexible use space, MATCH will also feature a coffee and wine bar, administrative office space, classroom and rehearsal spaces and a large plaza facing Main Street.

So far, $20 million of the necessary $25 million has been raised. Todd says it was important to the board that at least 80% of the money was raised before beginning construction. "We played it conservatively, but we still have some substantial fundraising to go," she says.

Exactly which arts organizations will end up as tenants of MATCH is not yet determined. Many, including DiverseWorks, Main Street Theater and Theater Lab Houston have expressed interest, but no lease deals have been signed yet. Todd says that process will start soon now that construction is underway.


Offshore Technology Conference Sets New Record

posted on: 05/09/2014

Houston's largest annual convention saw its highest attendance ever this month.

Officials with the Offshore Technology Conference say roughly 108,300 people attended this year's event, which wrapped up at NRG Park yesterday. The conference draws energy professionals from around the world to learn about the latest technologies in offshore oil and gas exploration.

The previous attendance record was set in 1982, when just over 108,000 attended the show. Attendance dropped significantly in ensuing years as the oil bust took its toll. Last year's conference topped six figures for the first time since then.

Attendance wasn't the only record. The exhibition floor also covered a record 680,025 square feet.

The OTC is Houston's largest annual convention, giving the region's 3,000 energy companies "home field advantage" in engaging and making deals with customers, said Greg Ortale, CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The 2015 OTC is scheduled for May 4-7. More details on the OTC website


Texas Music Fest Helped Shape Houston Trombonist's Career

posted on: 05/02/2014

Phillip Freeman grew up listening to his father's eclectic record collection. There was rock, R&B and many other genres spanning the 60s, 70s and 80s. His dad was also a singer-songwriter himself, making music an integral part of the household in La Porte, 30 miles east of Houston. So it was natural for the younger Freeman to pick up guitar as a kid. And then there was that piano.

"We had a very terrible one," says Freeman. "It hadn't been tuned in so long that it really couldn't be tuned again. It wasn't a great sound but I sort of taught myself on those instruments."

Fast forward a few decades and Freeman has parlayed his love for music into a career with the Houston Symphony. He is the orchestra's bass trombonist, a gig he began in 2007 after beating out around 80 other applicants. But it was another program here in Houston that helped foster his appreciation for orchestral performance, just as it has thousands of other young people over the last 25 years.

VisitHouston: How did you first learn about the Texas Music Festival?
Phillip Freeman: It was 1997, the summer between my senior year at the University of Houston and going on to start my masters at the Manhattan School of Music. I had another friend who was a bass trombonist who was invited to participate in the Texas Music Festival, but he wasn't able to do the whole summer program. So we decided to split it. That was my first experience learning in that kind of intensive summer program with other people my age from all over.

VH: Summer programs like Texas Music Festival bring young musicians together to learn and to perform. What kind of impact does that have?
PF: As a music student you always hear that you should do summer festivals because while everyone else is taking the summer off, you're actually honing your skills. It's true. But you're also getting important ensemble skills and you're networking with others. This business is so small that you're constantly running into people you performed with years ago. I continue to see friends from my years at Texas Music Festival who have gone on to all facets of music.

VH: What sets this particular festival program apart from the others?
PF: I think the biggest strength TMF has is that they pick a difficult repertoire that attracts talent. They select these big orchestral pieces that students in undergrad or even in masters programs wouldn't often get to perform. It's intense and that draws students who want that kind of intensity, who want the challenge.

VH: Did any individuals stand out for you as mentors at TMF?
PF: I've had a great relationship with Alan Austin (director of TMF) that stretches back 15 years now. Certainly much of the credit for the success of the program goes to Alan and the faculty. Another person who I worked with at TMF who ended up being a great mentor to me was Dave Kirk who plays tuba for the Houston Symphony. I took lessons from Dave my second summer at the festival and a lot things I learned that year really influenced how I play. Now Dave and I sit next to each other when we perform with the symphony.

VH: After 25 years, what do you think has kept TMF going and made it successful for students?
PF: As I said I think much of the credit goes to Alan and his team. But also the donations that come into the program from donors who know that what's happening there is important and they want to make sure it continues.

VH: You've had a chance to travel around and perform in many other places. What's your opinion of Houston's overarching music scene? How does it compare to other cities?
PF: What I really like about Houston is that between what's happening at Jones Hall, at the Wortham, at the Hobby Center and then at places like Fitzgerald's and the Continental Club--it's an incredibly diverse scene. You have so many different facets and genres of live music being performed here on any given night. If you're open minded enough to think outside of the typical venues, you're going to find something you like. Our music scene is just incredibly diverse.

This year's Immanuel & Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival kicks off on May 30 and runs through June 28 with multiple public concerts and events each week. Click here for the full season schedule and to purchase tickets.


Bulgari showcases 130 dazzling years at the Museum of Natural Science

posted on: 05/01/2014

Richard Burton once said of Elizabeth Taylor, "The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari." And, indeed, Taylor and legions of Hollywood's most iconic women have long been attracted to the preeminent jeweler to the stars, from Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly to Meryl Streep and Jennifer Aniston. naomi watts

Now, from May 2 to October 5 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, visitors can feast their eyes upon 150 pieces of jewelry from Bulgari's Heritage Collection, comprised of both masterpieces from the historical archives in Rome and on loan from private collections. The exhibit also includes portraits of some of the world's most famous women wearing the showcased Bulgari jewelry, including several interactive displays featuring Elizabeth Taylor throughout her long relationship with the brand.

"Because the Houston Museum of Natural Science is home to one the finest collections of natural gem crystals in the world, I have a deep appreciation for the quality and diversity of the gems that Bulgari uses when creating their jeweled masterpieces," Joel A. Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science said in a statement. "Equal parts art and science, historic and modern, Bulgari not only pays homage to the great masters of the past, they also continuously push the envelope in jewelry design and cutting-edge technology into the future when so many others are content to merely rest on their laurels."

bulgariThough Bulgari has long been recognized as the jeweler to the stars, the retrospective features 130 years of the company's storied history, from the first jewelry shop in Rome where silversmith Sotirio Bulgari got his start, to the moment Sartirio's son placed the iconic "V" in BVLGARI, and the company's ascension to the silver screen.

For those inspired to start a collection of their own, The Bulgari shop in the Galleria just completed a renovation of its retail store in honor of the museum's exhibit. The Bulgari shop is located on the second floor near Neiman Marcus, open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6p.m. For more information, call (713) 622-7574 or visit www.bulgari.com.


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