Visual Arts

A 10-Year Trip Down Memory Lane With the Magical Art of Discovery Green

Monument Au Fantome by Jean Dubuffet is on view year-round at Discovery Green and is valued at more than $6.7 million.
Monument Au Fantome by Jean Dubuffet is on view year-round at Discovery Green and is valued at more than $6.7 million. Photo by Lorie Shaull via CC
When we heard that Discovery Green was throwing a Tenth Birthday Celebration on April 15, we got just as misty as Doug Hollis's The Mist Tree.

From permanent works of art like Jean Dubuffet's Monument Au Fantome, Margo Sawyer's Synchronicity of Color and Hollis's Listening Vessels, to temporary installations that awaken the senses, the amazing art at Discovery Green has turned this 12-acre jewel of a park into one of our favorite outdoor galleries.

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Synchronicity of Color by Margo Sawyer is a permanent installation at Discovery Green.
Judy Nyquist, Discovery Green's chair of the Public Art Committee, says the decision to bring in temporary installations during the cooler months began about five years ago. "What happened was almost immediately it caught on and the kind of energy around it was just palpable. The social media went berserk. An opportunity to take a picture but more than that it turned out to be one of the most popular things in the park."

Nyquist says these temporary installations have become incredibly popular, not only increasing visitorship but also resulting in repeat visits. "It wasn’t just a one shot deal. They were coming to the park purposely to experience the art. We really concentrated on the Brown Promenade because it’s one of the most important features of the park," says Nyquist, adding that the 100-year-old oak trees are the heart of the park.

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Los Trompos by Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena was on display at Discovery Green November 2015 through March 2016.
Photo by Abel Klainbaum
Because Los Trompos was a site-specific installation, Discovery Green retained ownership of the spinning tops once the exhibit closed and has lent them out to a group in Florida.

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Field of Light, a temporary installation by Bruce Munro at Discovery Green.
Photo by Katya Horner
When Discovery Green was getting ready to install Bruce Munro's Field of Light, they called on volunteers to help plant the glass orbs into the ground. "One of the most really incredibly energizing things about that, the plan was that we needed to use volunteers in order to make that installation happen. We put out a call and had time slots and days and we were overrun, I mean overrun, with people who wanted to help with Bruce Munro," says Nyquist. "It was incredible. We had everything from CEOs to homeless people — the whole gamut. It just shows the enthusiasm of Houston. We had to turn people away. We weren’t giving anything except coffee and popcorn, they just came and worked. It was a real community builder."

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Field of Light by Bruce Munro, a temporary installation at Discovery Green, and Synchronicity of Color by Margo Sawyer, on view year-round.
Photo by Katya Horner
It's no coincidence that many of these temporary installations are illuminated. "The light is something that’s very magical to have in the park, because first of all it gets dark enough early enough in the winter season."

She says the art, along with The Grove (the park's restaurant), have made Discovery Green a destination. "It’s a very lovely thing to have dinner, a meal or a drink overlooking something like that.

"People go before a game, a basketball game. It’s close enough that it’s very walkable. We have that benefit. Discovery Green has been such an economic driver — beyond all of our expectations. It’s because of Discovery Green that all those hotels are there," says Nyquist. "It’s unparalleled. I can’t imagine a lot of cities that have had the effect with the kind of growth that happened with that very, very precious patch of green."

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Hello, Trees! A Walking Serenade was a temporary installation at Discovery Green that ended in February.
Photo by Morris Malakoff, The CKP Group
The park is also teaching next generation Houstonians about the importance of public art. "It’s sometimes the first interaction with art. It’s free, and it’s open and it creates dialogue and it creates community. People are together for no other reason than to enjoy that. There’s no prejudice; it's an open forum. We need spaces like this in this day and age.

"Public art is universal," says Nyquist. "When children encounter it for the first time, it’s magic."

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A temporary installation, yes, but forever memorable.

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Firmament, a temporary installation (November 2016-January 2017) was a vibrant canopy of LED lights by acclaimed Burning Man artist Christopher Schardt. It was on display at the same time as Enchanted Promenade, by TILT.
Photo by Vincent Rommelaere
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Enchanted Promenade, by TILT, was a temporary installation that featured colorful, giant (more than 19 feet in height) peony bouquets along Discovery Green's Brown Promenade.
Rendering by French art and design collective TILT
Discovery Green and the George R. Brown Convention Center collaborated with three separate installations last year. Arcade (shown here) was inspired by the childhood games of Hopscotch, Double Dutch and Red Rover.
Photo courtesy of Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger
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"Split Monumental," one of the sculptures from Jorge Marín's "Wings of the City," a temporary installation at Discovery Green.
Photo by Katya Horner
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"Abrazo Monumental," one of the sculptures from Jorge Marín's "Wings of the City," a temporary installation at Discovery Green.
Photo by Katya Horner
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"Archi-valdo," one of the sculptures from Jorge Marín's "Wings of the City," a temporary installation at Discovery Green.
Photo by Katya Horner
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Monument Au Fantome by Jean Dubuffet still looks great, even as the landscape around Discovery Green has grown and evolved.
Discovery Green's Tenth Birthday Celebration runs from noon to 6 p.m. April 15, 1500 McKinney, 713-400-7336, discoverygreen.com/birthday, free.
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney