Best Bets This Weekend: Ugly Sweaters, Norman Rockwell and Very Merry Pops

Freedom from Want (detail), by Norman Rockwell.
Freedom from Want (detail), by Norman Rockwell. ©SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved., courtesy of MFAH

While the weather continues to cool, the holiday celebrations are heating up all over town. We've got Very Merry Pops with the Houston Symphony, caroling with HGO at Discovery Green, and a Winter Wonderland of crafting over at Asia Society Texas Center. There's much to be thankful for, and MFAH's Normal Rockwell exhibit is a poignant reminder of the need for human rights both at home and around the world. Art collectors will want to check out Lawndale's Silent Auction before it closes Saturday night and, for the ultimate in tacky, there's a chance to wear ugly sweaters at Bayou Bend's Christmas Village. We'd like to think Ima Hogg would have found it festive, though perhaps not tasteful.

click to enlarge The Houston Symphony rings in joy with Very Merry Pops. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY RATHBUN
The Houston Symphony rings in joy with Very Merry Pops.
Photo by Anthony Rathbun
If you're feeling blue and need a little nudge to get into the holiday spirit, our prescription calls for a heaping helping of Very Merry Pops. From the moment concert-goers set foot in the Jones Hall lobby — with the beautiful decorations and a small ensemble of choristers singing traditional Christmas carols — to a musical program of sparkling holiday favorites, it's easy to experience the joy of the season with the Houston Symphony. Former Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski returns to conduct this holiday concert, including the symphony's commission Glad Tidings that tells the Christmas story through classic carols like What Child is This?, Silent Night and Joy to the World.

Very Merry Pops is scheduled for December 13-17 at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit $34 to $149.

click to enlarge Sing-alongs are included during this Saturday's Carols on the Green. - PHOTO BY LYNN LANE, COURTESY OF HGO
Sing-alongs are included during this Saturday's Carols on the Green.
Photo by Lynn Lane, courtesy of HGO
If you haven't yet ventured over to Discovery Green for the ice skating, the illuminated Paloma origami birds along the promenade, or the Here and Now sound installation, we've got one more enticement. This Saturday night members of the Houston Grand Opera chorus return for the second annual songfest led by Ben Manis and featuring HGO studio artists Leia Lensig and Kyle Naig. Lift up your voice and sing along during Carols on the Green and, if you just can't carry a tune, know that accompanying vocals by the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir and the AFA Girls Choir will be covering for you.

Carols on the Green is scheduled for December 14 from 7-8 p.m. Saturday at Discovery Green, Anheuser-Busch Stage, 1500 McKinney. For information, visit Free.

click to enlarge Untitled, by Agnès Bourély, is available for purchase through Lawndale's Silent Auction. - PHOTO BY BARBARA DAVIS GALLERY
Untitled, by Agnès Bourély, is available for purchase through Lawndale's Silent Auction.
Photo by Barbara Davis Gallery
Emerging and established collectors know the value of the Lawndale Lending Library, where members can borrow new works of art and try them out in their home or office before putting a ring on it. If it clashes with your particular shade of teal, or it's too small for over the sofa, there's no need for worry or regret. This Saturday night is when bidding closes for the inaugural 2018/19 collection but, if you absolutely and positively can't live without a piece, there's also a "buy it now" option. During the 2019 Library Silent Auction, look for works by regional artists including Page Piland, Karen Eisele, Deborah Bay, Cecilia Villanueva, Agnès Bourély and many more, with a variety of styles and disciplines. It's also an opportunity to mix and mingle with artists and members, preview the 2020 collection, and enjoy light bites from Houston Dairymaids. The Silent Auction is now live for pre-bidding; visit

The Lawndale Lending Library Silent Auction is scheduled for December 14 from 5-7 p.m. Saturday at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit Free.

For information about purchasing a membership for the Lawndale Lending Library, contact Emily Fens at 713-528-5858 or visit $150 to $200.

click to enlarge Every origami ornament will be different; just use your imagination. - PHOTO BY LOLLYKNIT/FLICKR VIA CC
Every origami ornament will be different; just use your imagination.
Just as every snowflake is wonderfully unique, each handcrafted origami ornament made during this Saturday's Family Craft Day: Winter Wonderland will be equally original and special, with opportunities to make snowflakes, trees and gifts. Take a free tour of the current exhibition, "Tsuruya Kokei: Kabuki Prints Revised & Revisited" and, drawing inspiration from the almost 100 prints, try your hand at making your own woodblock print in partnership with Printmatters Houston. The event also showcases seasonal celebrations in Japan and China, like the famous Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, then make your own replica sculpture out of foam. Bring your cameras, too, and snap a selfie during the Winter Wonderland photo booth. Asian sweets, snacks and cookies will also be on hand.

Family Craft Day: Winter Wonderland is scheduled for December 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore. For information, call 713-496-9901 or visit Free to $5; registration is requested.

Freedom from Fear, by Norman Rockwell.
©SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved., courtesy of MFAH
"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedoms of every person to worship god in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want…everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear…anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation." — Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 6, 1941

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address, it was a pivotal moment in history that shifted the tide from American isolationism toward the realization that we actually had skin in the game and needed to assist the British and Allied troops against the Axis powers. Norman Rockwell's 1943 depictions of the four freedoms are central to "Norman Rockwell: American Freedom," a new exhibition opening this Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It's paired with paintings, illustrations and prints by Rockwell and his contemporaries, as well as historical documents, photographs and videos. A companion exhibit in the adjoining gallery, a photography project by Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur, presents a contemporary response on those freedoms that we hold dear.

"Norman Rockwell: American Freedom" is scheduled for December 15 through March 22 from 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Audrey Jones Beck Building, 5601 Main. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit Free to $23.

click to enlarge If you don't already own one, head over to Pavement Clothing. - PHOTOS BY THEUGLYSWEATERSHOP.COM/FLICKR VIA CC
If you don't already own one, head over to Pavement Clothing.

Bonus event: Not all fun is relegated to the weekends, and if you need proof then look no further than Ugly Sweaters at the Bend. MFAH's house museum for American decorative arts and paintings, Bayou Bend, is partnering with Montrose's retro thrift store Pavement Clothing for one night only during Christmas Village at Bayou Bend with Santa and his reindeer. There's no better time to be tacky, so embrace those colorful, tasseled and blinking seaters to receive a 20 percent off coupon to Bayou Bend's Holiday Shop, as well as five dollars off the exhibition price to see "Normal Rockwell: American Freedom." Our recommendation is to upgrade your evening with a theatrical, holiday-themed tour of the first floor of Ima Hogg's former home, though advance reservations are suggested. There you'll find drinks for sale at the bar — it will make wearing a silly sweater more giggly and fun — plus dinner, light bites and more treats can be purchased at the food truck, village tent, and sweet shop.

Ugly Sweaters at the Bend is scheduled for December 16 from 5:30-9 p.m. Monday at Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, 6003 Memorial Drive. For information, call 713-639-7750 or visit Free to $20.

Christmas Village at Bayou Bend with Santa and his reindeer continues through December 30; for more information visit
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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