Big Tex Road Trip: Best Arts

The Houston Press is close to publishing an ambitious statewide Texas road trip that you can tackle this summer. In the meantime, we’re listing some of our favorite visual and performing arts and culture destinations. Boy, there's a lot out there.

Although we’re putting the finishing touches on our Big Tex Road Trip guide, it’s not too late to leave your suggestions below.

The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou, Houston
From 1926 to 2007, an underground cistern, next to what’s now the Jamail Skate Park, operated as a drinking-water reservoir before eventually shutting down because of an unsalvageable leak. Instead of leveling the site (which was rediscovered in 2010), the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and others transformed the subterranean space into a 25-foot-tall, 150-yard-plus-long walkable beauty. The site, which includes Donald Lipski’s Down Periscope installation on the ground level, opens to the public today. 

Dallas Contemporary, Dallas
It takes a minute to figure out the location of Dallas Contemporary within a lonely stretch of industrial businesses and dirt lots in the city’s Design District. It’s worth the possible headache — the beautiful, chance-taking gallery space is wonderful and raw with unpolished concrete and exposed brick facades. And the exhibits go all out with modern, experimental fare from local Texas, national and international artists.

Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin 
This downtown Austin institute, which is linked with the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo organizations in Mexico City, presents rotating exhibits that feature traditional and contemporary artworks from Mexican and Latino artists living in Texas and abroad. And it does a bang-up job inside a small yet well-balanced space on Congress Avenue. The gift shop up front, with its rarely-seen-in-these-parts tchotchkes, is also a must-linger-and-peruse.

Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, Tyler
The self-proclaimed “nation’s largest rose garden” shows off more than 38,000 rose bushes and 600 different types of roses out in East Texas. An old-school rose garden in one corner of the 14-acre site includes antique bulbs that date to 1867. Next door is the Tyler Rose Museum, which nerds out on floral history and catalogs the progress of the Texas Rose Festival; the 83rd edition is scheduled to take place from October 13 to October 16.

Summer Mummers, Midland
During Summer Mummers, you can hurl popcorn in somebody’s face and not get your jaw rearranged. Each summer at downtown Midland’s circa-1929 Yucca Theater, Midland Community Theatre presents a locally written melodrama that’s made for audience participation in the form of loud cheers, boisterous boos and throwing a trough’s worth of popcorn at the stage. The uniquely West Texas production started in 1949; the 2016 version is scheduled to run every Friday and Saturday from June 3 through September 3. 

Chinati Foundation, Marfa 
Visitors can easily kill an afternoon in this former World War II military outpost that’s now a supercool art complex, founded by the late minimalist artist Donald Judd. A guided tour (which is required to access the exhibitions) will take you along the peaceful grounds that include Judd’s aluminum boxes, Dan Flavin’s lights, Claes Oldenburg’s horseshoe, John Chamberlain’s wrecked-car sculptures and Roni Horn’s copper cylinders. 

Museum of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur
The museum, located in the Texas Gulf Coast hometown of Robert Rauschenberg, showcases a number of pieces by the late, great pop-art painter and graphic artist. The fun little museum also features Janis Joplin ephemera (her high school yearbook, a replica Porsche) as well as displays dedicated to J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, George Jones, and famous sports figures like Bum Phillips and Mel Farr. 
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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen