Like a bookstore without cappuccino, what's a modern art museum without ... mixed drinks and lounge music? Some purists may lament the decline of art for art's sake, but we like the idea of downing a stiff cocktail while pondering paintings. Since early spring, the Contemporary Arts Museum has transformed itself into a hip club called "Steel Lounge," piping in cool sounds and serving beer, wine and the "Artini of the Month," the last Friday of every month. The event has proven wildly popular, with nearly 450 people in attendance last time. This week's party takes place in the midst of the splendid exhibit "Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas." This month's drink? The "Deity-ini." (Get it?) Friday, August 28, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Contemporary Arts Museum, 5216 Montrose. Admission is free; bar is cash. Info: 284-8250.
Hey guys! Let's load up the Ford Taurus and go visit the Johnson Space Center! C'mon, it'll be fun! Seriously, now -- stifle that snort of derision -- we know you've lived in Houston forever, and never bothered to check out NASA's Mission Control room or tour the Neutral Buoyancy Lab or try on a space suit. This is your chance to blast off into an educational adventure -- or at least force your children to experience one -- exploring our great nation's extraterrestrial activities at a daylong open house at the starplex on NASA Road 1. Star Trek it's not; even better, it's the site of certain segments in the current disaster pic Armageddon. Climb inside the KC-135A aircraft used to film the weightless scenes in Ron Howard's movie Apollo 13. Get a real live astronaut's autograph. Kids can try out robotic arms and hands. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, 2101 NASA Road 1. The open house is free. Info: (281) 244-5312, or visit the web site. The open house coincides with the Ballunar Liftoff Festival, also on NASA grounds. At 6 p.m. Saturday, a multitude of hot-air balloons will ascend en masse into the steamy sky.
Ever wonder where Alley actor James Black powders his nose before a performance? Ask him yourself! Black, fielding questions from his adoring public, will be one of many attractions in a snoop-behind-the-scenes Theater District Open House at the Wortham Center, Jones Hall and Alley Theatre. The Society for the Performing Arts will sponsor tango exhibitions and Japanese drumming performances at Jones Hall, followed by a 4 p.m concert by the Houston Symphony. Houston Opera Studio will perform throughout the day at the Wortham. Ballerinas in costume will tell the stories behind the famous ballets. The Aerial Theater will feature live jazz on the patio. Theatre Under the Stars will preview its upcoming season with songs from Guys and Dolls. Sunday, August 30, noon to 5 p.m. Free food, free drinks, free admission.
The Nazis plundered countless works of art from Jewish collectors. Fifty years after the war, 20 percent of it was still missing -- passed along from top German officials to unscrupulous art dealers and auction houses. When the Paris-based Puerto Rican journalist Hector Feliciano asked Holocaust survivors why they had not pursued the recovery of their collections, "They said they were so happy to live that they didn't ask for material things," Feliciano said. That answer didn't satisfy Feliciano. Feliciano, who set out to find the missing works by Cezanne, Matisse, Vermeer and Picasso, ended up writing The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art after seven years of research. Feliciano will give a slide lecture at 3 p.m. Sunday, August 30, in the Brown Auditorium at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. Following the lecture, Feliciano will sign copies of his book. Free; limited seating, arrive early.
Teach your tykes sponge painting and a Martha Stewart-esque dining room will be yours for free! (Do child-labor laws apply to one's own progeny?) Spend some quality time with your offspring and cultivate their Pollack-like impulses without worrying about paint spatters on the furniture. The Children's Museum of Houston is offering a class in the aforementioned art form for children ages two to five. Now that the bratty elder siblings are back in school, the museum is scheduling a series of preschool activities through September. Monday, August 31, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The museum is located at 1500 Binz. Admission is $5 per person; children under two free. Info: 522-1138.