The Five Best Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Art, a Bluesy Ballet and Brunch

There's nothing traditional about this weekend, and that's a good thing. We're celebrating the grand opening of Smither Park with its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mosaic masterpieces, the Alley Theatre starts its pedestrian-centric theatrical experience in a cemetery, and Musiqa is jazzing up its season opener with saxophones and a ballet. Refuel and recharge with our super-awesome (if we do say so ourselves) brunch event on Saturday, then hit the ground running because we have not one – but two – major art fairs going down in the Bayou City this weekend.

Stephanie and John Smither continue to receive must-deserved respect. This weekend, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, during its Authentic, Raw & True: A Weekend of Celebrating Visionary and Self-Taught Art event, pays homage to the crucial Houston art philanthropists who spent their lives collecting and advocating for folk art as a serious and gallery-worthy art form. Stephanie passed away on June 12, three days after the jam-packed unveiling of “As Essential as Dreams: Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Stephanie and John Smither” at The Menil Collection. Stephanie, who was 75 at the time of her death, attended the opening. After John passed away in 2002, Stephanie, an Orange Show board member, started working with artist Dan Phillips in putting together a creative outdoor space in memory of her late husband. Approximately 300 nationwide artists contributed gorgeous mosaic designs that bathe nearly every inch of the green space that’s located next door to the Orange Show. Smither Park – which includes an amphitheater, a pavilion, a swingset, a meditation garden, a coin tower and a 400-foot-long memory wall featuring 50 one-of-a-kind, artist-designed panels – grand opens this weekend with artists in attendance and headliner Los Skarnales. 

The Smither Park Grand Opening & Fundraiser will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday at Smither Park, 2441 Munger. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit $25 to $50.

Can't make the party? Come back Saturday or Sunday for the Houston Visionary Art Bus Tour, with stops at Smither Park, The Orange Show Monument, the Beer Can House and The Menil Collection. The luxury coach art bus tours run from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Menil Collection, 1533 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-926-6368 or visit Eventbrite. $75.

After Remote Houston received the constantly-sold-out treatment during this spring’s CounterCurrent Festival, Alley Theatre continued the run (which also sold out), so it's bringing the pedestrian-centric “live art theatrical experience” back for another go. The piece, by the Berlin artist collective Rimini Protokoll (originally co-presented by Alley and University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts), guides walkers to Houston sites via a mechanical narrative voice that’s piped through headphones. What’s crazy is that the narrator sometimes seems to know a participant’s every move, even before it’s executed. “It demonstrates how technology controls our lives,” says Dean Gladden, Alley’s managing director. “It’s all about thinking, ‘Am I in control or is technology in control?’” Rimini Protokoll, which designed similar pieces in Moscow, Paris and New York City, made the piece uniquely Houston by incorporating the tunnel system and abandoned East End sites, and we're up for the adventure this Friday afternoon.

4 p.m. Friday. Continuing 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. Through November 18. Evergreen Cemetery, 500 Altic. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit $39. 

According to Farha Ternikar's Brunch: A History, which is apparently the Bible of brunch studies, the hybrid meal gained favor in 1895 England either as a meal for after-church English Catholics or "as a late Sunday breakfast for Saturday night pub crawlers." As it developed through the years and in many countries, it spoke to relaxation, of the freedom to eat breakfast or lunch foods in the same meal. And, of course, to drink, if you were so inclined. Which brings us to this Saturday, when you can join the Houston Press as we celebrate the first ever The Morning After, A Houston Press Bottomless Brunch Sampling Event. This celebration of delicious decadence features food sampling from almost two dozen of Houston’s hottest brunch spots, plus beer, cocktails, music and entertainment. Upgrade to a VIP ticket for advance entry, premium covered seating and some great swag. 

11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Bayou City Event Center Pavilion, 9401 Knight. For information, call 877-987-6487 or visit $25 to $75.

Musiqa kicks off its 15th season with Sustained by Breath and Line, a delightful combination of live music and dance, which sounds quite lovely for Saturday night. The collaboration with Houston Ballet Academy features an original composition by Musiqa’s artistic director, Anthony Brandt, who says Full Circle is a three-movement ballet, about 15 to 17 minutes long and scored entirely for a saxophone quartet. Houston Ballet soloist Oliver Halkowich choreographed the piece. “This was written for the ballet, and in dance the music comes first,” says Brandt. “So I essentially had carte blanche and Oliver took what is intended as an abstract and found a story in it. He’s created a drama about human connection in the Internet age, how [we] crave something beyond those digital interactions. It’s fun, playful and can be very poignant.”

7:30 p.m. Saturday. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit $25 to $50. 

When we first heard that two of the biggest art fairs in Houston were going down on the same weekend, our first thought was, “Do we really have to choose?” With the exception of a couple of ultra-swanky Thursday preview events, the answer was "no." Now that the Houston Art Fair has moved from NRG Center to the Silver Street Event Space, it's only a 12-minute hop, skip and a jump (traffic permitting) over to Texas Contemporary at George R. Brown Convention Center, making it easy to check out both events. We recommend visiting their websites to take note of "must see" lectures and presentations, putting on some comfortable shoes, then heading out for a weekend designed for art lovers. We spotted two great lectures at Houston Art Fair this SundayReviving Houston’s Lost Art History at 2 p.m. and Seeds of Light – Fields of Color: Susan Plum and Dorothy Hood at 3:30 p.m. We also zoned in on a great lecture over at Texas Contemporary on Sunday afternoon: It's a 4 p.m. panel discussion by the Texas Biennial Preview covering the roles played by geography and interconnectivity in the Texas art scene.

Houston Art Fair runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Silver Street Event Space, 2000 Edwards. For information, visit $20 to $25.

Texas Contemporary runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, visit $25 to $50.

Houston Press, Steve Jansen and Vic Shuttee contributed to this post.
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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