Houstonians know that the Menil Collection isn't a building or a set of buildings. Rather the legacy of John and Dominique de Menil and their world-renowned collection is an entire neighborhood of art, nestled in a quiet tree-lined section of the Montrose.
Over several decades architects such as Howard Barnstone, Philip Johnson and Renzo Piano helped the de Menils realize their campus vision, from the museum buildings themselves to the gray bungalows to the green spaces adorned with outdoor sculptures. What resulted was a neighborhood conducive to the type of "chance encounters" that came to define the Menil experience.
In conjunction with the Menil's 25th anniversary, the museum is launching a cellphone walk in August. Using the latest technology, the walk highlights the vision of the founders and the diversity of the neighborhood that houses their collection. Patrons will be able to create their own experience on the walk, which includes about 17 sites and stops along the early 20th Century blocks of Sul Ross and Branard streets.
Drawn from rare audio recordings from Menil archives, the voices users will hear include the de Menils, Renzo Piano and others who assisted in shaping this unique part of Houston. Menil Director Josef Helfenstein elaborates on the idea of the Menil as "a neighborhood of art."
In short, the audio walk gives people an opportunity to discover the Menil through the direct words of the artists, curators, architects, historians, and others who have played an integral role in the founding and growth of the museum.
The walk will be an ongoing feature at the museum. Details will be available inside the main building starting in August.