Free for All: Art Without a Price Tag

Just because the economy is in the toilet doesn't mean you should miss out on all of the performing and visual arts happenings in town. Even the most expensive productions have some cheap seats, right? Trouble with cheap seats is you generally get a really lousy view. How about getting a great view to a wonderful event without having to shell out any money at all? Yeah, we thought you'd like that (we know we do). Here are three great events that are free:

First, there's "Under Repair - New Works on Paper by Mark Masterson." Houston arts refuge Spacetaker is hosting Masterson's exhibit and to despite the show's title, Masterson's work needs no repair, unless the manner in which he turns his canvas into incongruous folds of fabric makes you uncomfortable. Purposely done and delightfully off-putting, they make you want to find a hot iron to flatten the creases in order to absorb more of the painting. His work sends you to the 16th century, Canterbury Tales-style - some feature medieval doctors performing atrocious brain experiments, while others depict gluttonous dinner feasts.

2 to 5 p.m. Saturday as part of the Second Saturday Open Studios. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. 2101 Winter Street Studios. For information, visit www.spacetaker.org or call 713-868-1839. Free.

Second, is the 32nd Annual Festival Chicano at Miller Outdoor Theatre. On Thursday, the musica portion of the show features the Grammy Award-winning Little Joe y La Familia. The Temple-born band leader has been on the Tejano circuit since 1955, cranking out hits and keeping a large legion of devout fans happy. You'll hear lots more than just Tejano standards from Joe and his group. Expect a little Latino soul, some funked-up cumbias and country-influenced dance jams.

Also appearing on Thursday are Llueve and Los Hermanos Cortez. On Friday, its Jimmy Gonzalez y Mazz, AVIZO and the A T Boyz. Saturday, father and son Roberto Pulido (accompanied by his group Los Calssicos) and Bobby Pulido split the bill with Braulio y Fuzzion. Expect some folkloric dancing and a few speeches from community leaders while the bands set up.

7 p.m. daily. For information, visit www.milleroutdoortheatre.com or call 281-373-3386. Free.

And third, there's the Houston Poetry Fest 2011. The annual celebration of all things poetry is juried event and features some 25 poets in all, including David Ray Vance, Carol Louise Munn, Ysabel de la Rosa. Like many of his cohorts, Vance has won a slew of awards and been published in a variety of literary magazines and collections. Embracing hybrid/mixed-media poetics and often using interleaved columns of text, Vance currently teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Here's a taste of what you can expect from Vance: "I presumed/he was sleeping, he saw/everything, every maneuver,/ reflected in my glasses." There's also an open reading for anyone who wants to grab the mike.

Times vary. Friday through Sunday. Willow Street Pump Station, 811 North San Jacinto. For information, visit www.houstonpoetryfest.info. Free.

Abby Koenig contributed to this post.

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