Fight for fine arts: Thank you for your timely and highly informative cover story on HISD's high school band programs ["Battle of the Bands," by Chasen Marshall, August 19]. The article highlighted the especially challenging atmosphere in which many of the district's fine-arts programs attempt to function, especially at the secondary school level.
The challenges HISD faces in providing high-quality arts education are not unique to the district. Throughout the country, arts education has been in jeopardy for years, and continues to be so, especially in tough financial times. Fine arts programs are often one of the first cuts districts make to address budget shortfalls. This is extremely shortsighted thinking.
High-quality fine-arts classes provide a gateway for students to relate to unique educational experiences in ways that are both meaningful and relevant to them. The fine arts educate by doing, by literally providing hands-on cultural experiences for students. Theses are critical issues for today's society. There is simply no substitute for a child being taken to one of Houston's many performance halls, museums or other such venues to witness human creativity and expression at the highest level.
A portion of your article mentions a "declining interest" in arts education. I can assure your readers that nothing could be further from the truth. Low student participation is not an accurate measure of interest. There are thousands of students (and their parents) who would love nothing more than to be a part of a high-quality school-based fine-arts program if they were available. The cart is before the horse here.
So, what can be done? Plenty. Parents, contact your child's principal and tell them that arts education is important to you. Offer to volunteer time or talents that you may have to support the establishment and survival of these programs. Community organizations can also play an active role in helping schools reach out to Houston's arts organizations for the benefit of their neighborhood schools. All teachers, not solely fine-arts teachers, can be strong voices of advocacy at the campus level. It can be done.
R. Neal Wile
Wiley & Associate
Arts Advocacy and Consultant Service
Online readers weigh in:
Good work: Renferd Joseph is an awesome band director. I served as his drum major in high school, and he was an excellent band member, section leader and percussionist. I am certain that his excellence will continue to grow as he instills in his students those morals and acts of discipline that were instilled in us under the leadership and tutelage of Professor Edward Earl Jackson, our high school band director. Keep up the good work, Ren. Continue to make us proud.
John E. Smith Jr.
This is real life: In my neighborhood, a lot of kids went on to be teen moms and dropouts. This band is making the difference in a lot of lives. I'm glad to see these kids getting a model for excellence and a means to achieve. I'm glad that these kids have this resource. Good article.
Character: Sounds as though character and accountability are being taught by some very respectable community members (R Joseph)...Shame that our nation's politicians did not start out under his direction.
Online readers comment on "Houston Gets Its Own Street Art Documentary," Art Attack blog, by Troy Schulze, August 20:
Down or not: So this blog wants to be "down" with street art, but then you say that a documentary is misguided for documenting illegal street art/graffiti? So if Give Up would have said that he wanted to hug you and all these guys only did permission walls, would the documentary be less "misguided"?
Complicated issue: No one can honestly approach street art without addressing the criminal aspect of it. I thought this post dealt with that, and in doing so was only responding to the trailer itself. Whatever value Give Up's art has (and personally I think it has plenty), it is not a victimless crime. Consequently, for any thinking aesthete, the issue of street art is not a simple binary "support" or "oppose." At best, it's complicated.
Who's misguided? Don't be so quick to judge the entire film by its trailer, or the whole street art movement by the words of one wheat paster. This trailer obviously offers up only one point of view, however blunt and confrontational, that will entice you to see the whole film.
This blog is the one that feels like a misguided attempt to support "art" in Houston.
Marco from Houston
Talented folks: As an art dealer who represents graffiti artists, I think it is very interesting to see the rise of documentaries like this. Some of the collectors of street art are Wall Street tycoons, musicians, actors, politicians (President Obama was just given a wheat-paste poster by the Prime Minister of Britain as a present). It is a very misunderstood form of art, because in general it is done illegally.
Shepard Fairey, who designed the Obama Hope poster, is in this documentary. There are a lot of talented folks in this film. I show art in the Pacific Northwest, and we've been following the progress of this film here.
Debating Honduras Maya
Online readers comment on "Honduras in Houston," by Katharine Shilcutt, August 19:
On the list: Okay, well, this place just looks amazing. Adding to the list of must-visits!
Gone off: Usually don't disagree with your reviews, but this was off. The food was a little truck-stoppish, and the service was a disaster. Oh well, next time I'm in the area, I'll stick to Pico's.
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Good food, bad service: I was very excited to try this place after reading this review. While the food was good, the service was so terrible that I will not be returning. We waited over an hour for our food; when it came, only half the table was served. After an hour and a half, we inquired about the second half of our food, and they had "forgotten" our order. We even spoke to the owner (manager?) about it, but did not even receive an apology. Which is a shame, because the food was good. I think they are simply not prepared to handle the wave of customers this review will bring them.
Great experience: All I can say is that when I ate here, I had a great experience, a fantastic meal and fine service. It's way better than what was reported by the few people who had bad experiences there.