In a city where nearly 90 languages are spoken and nearly one-quarter of all current residents were born outside the U.S., Houston is one of the most diverse places in the nation. And with that diversity come a tremendous multicultural arts scene. Museums, galleries and performing groups are just the beginning of what you'll find in this melting pot.
Asia Society Texas Center's $48.4 million, 38,000-square-foot headquarters, designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi, features five major program components: an art gallery, a theater, public reception spaces, a three-room classroom and conference suite and administrative offices. Three gardens, a gift shop and a cafe enrich the space and enhance services. Asia Society Texas Center is the only U.S. branch of Asia Society other than the New York headquarters that has its own building.
The Czech Cultural Center celebrates the culture of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Silesia with events and exhibitions. The center features language classes, a museum, archives, genealogy resources, event facilities, library and an ecumenical chapel. Exhibits include Czech crystal, glass, porcelain, pottery, antique furniture, jewelry, folk costumes and fine art. A 1,200-piece collection of Czechoslovakian porcelain, pottery and glass, produced only for a 20-year period between World Wars, is one of the newest additions.
The Houston Museum of African American Culture is one of the city's newest museum institutions and is dedicated to telling the story of Africans and African Americans in Houston and beyond. Opened in 2012 inside the Houston Museum District, HMAAC offers dynamic programming, lectures and exhibitions that involve people of color. There are also film series, educational classes and even worship services at the campus on Caroline Street.
The African American Library at the Gregory School opened its doors in 2009. Located in the historic Freeman's Town on the edge of Downtown Houston, the library is housed in the Edgar M. Gregory School, which served as the first public school for African Americans in the city. The Gregory School endeavors to preserve, promote, and celebrate the rich history and culture of African Americans in the region and the African Diaspora. In addition to its permanent exhibits, the library also showcases temporary exhibits on all aspects of African American culture and hosts regular guest lectures.
Over the last four decades Talento Bilgue de Houston has expanded beyond the confines of a bilingual theater group to encompass mediums such as video and film production, art exhibitions, festivals and ballet folkorico. Housed in a 16,000-square-foot facility with a 300-seat theater, rehearsal room, gallery space and more, Teatro Bilingue is one of the city's foremost cultural arts organizations.
Touted as the oldest and largest African American theater in the Southwest, Ensemble Theatre has more than three decades of performances to its credit. The group aims to preserve African American artistic expression and enrich the city's diverse community through works that portray the African American experience. Roughly a half-dozen shows are staged each season.
The American Cowboy Museum is charged with preserving the Western heritage of Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanics and women. Housed in a section of the Taylor-Stevenson Ranch, the museum offers tours and exhibits and features oral historians who provide stories and lectures dressed in native attire and hands-on activities. The founder, Mollie Taylor-Stevenson, Jr. and her mother were the first living African Americans inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Ft. Worth, Texas.
The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated primarily to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier. It houses the largest repository of African-American military history in the world. The 10th cavalry, an all African-American Army unit, was nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers by Cheyenne warriors in 1867 out of respect for their fierce fighting ability. Over time, the term Buffalo Soldier was applied to all African-American soldiers. The museum aims to interpret, articulate, collect, display and preserve historical artifacts, documents, videos, prints and other historical memorabilia which detail the history of the brave men and women who overcame extreme adversity while gallantly fighting the great American wars.
After more than 100 years of immigration, assimilation, and growth in the United States and in Houston, Arab-Americans have a place where their culture, art, and language can be preserved and carried on for generations yet to come. The Arab-American Cultural & Community Center offers a wide range of programs, activities, and functions, including: cultural lectures, language lessons, resource center and a museum dedicated to Arabs who have resettled in Texas through the generations.
With one of the largest Asian populations in the Southwest, Houston is home to a wide variety of Asian restaurants, shops and cultural destinations. Much of this is situated around Chinatown in Southwest Houston, a bustling commercial hub.Asian Heritage Tours offers tailored tours to groups involving everything from tea tasting and herbology to an exploration of Chinese calligraphy.
Gente de Teatro is a Hispanic theater group that performs predominantly for that audience in Houston. Founded in 1994, the group has staged dozens of performances at Rice University's Hamman Hall.
Jade Buddha Temple covers two-and-a-half acres in southwest Houston and consists of the Grand Hall, Kwan-Yin Hall, the Youth Activity Center, a library, a dining hall, several living quarters, and a lotus pond with a statue of Kwan-Yin as its centerpiece. In addition to serving the religious and spiritual needs of its members, the Temple functions as a Buddhist study and research center for many different educational institutions, including Rice University, University of Houston, the University of Texas, and St. John's School.
More than three decades after it opened in an old duplex on Sunset Blvd. in Rice Village, Surroundings is still offering a unique mix of housewares, gifts, furnishings and accessories from across Latin America. The family-run business sells almost exclusively "one of a kind" pieces from Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and beyond.
Located in the Houston Heights, Casa Ramirez exhibits and sells all kinds of Mexican craftwork, from portraits, antiques, ceramics, clay, metal and wood artifacts and figures to the most varied artistic elements.
Ten Thousand Villages provides a marketplace for fairly traded handicrafts from Asia, Africa, Central America and the Middle East. Through sales, the store's customers improve the economic life of artisans and their families by providing income for food, education, health care, and housing.
Annual Cultural Events
WorldFest: Houston International Film Festival
Houston International Festival
Houston Dragon Boat Festival
Cinco de Mayo Celebration
The Original Greek Festival
Dia de los Muertos Festival
Texas Championship Native American Pow Wow
By AJ Mistretta
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