Art Appreciation from a Houston Local

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

It’s pretty unlikely that you will find Houston in a travel magazine alongside cities like Honolulu, New York, and Hollywood. It makes sense. It’s not a touristy city. It’s not a bad city, and it has plenty to offer, it’s just not a city where you will find many Hawaiian shirt-clad, camera-bearing crowds. It’s that simple.

When an outsider asks the Houstonian what makes this city special, the Houstonian’s answer (though always somewhat different) can be counted on to contain something about museums.

Though many people don’t know it, Houston has a wonderful and unique set of museums. From the well-known Menil to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and even the Funeral Museum, Houston’s got it covered.

When you spend your whole life in one place, you tend to not indulge in the tourist scene. After 15 years of living in southern California, I did not once visit the Hollywood sign. There is something about living in one place for so long that makes these things seem less crucial.

When my family moved to Houston, we changed from the role of neutral natives to that of complete tourists. We found ourselves spending much more time visiting tourist spots so as to gain a stronger understanding of the city.

I am lucky to live near Houston’s museum district where most of the city’s incredible museums can be found. I have been able to marvel at the beautiful, the fascinating, and at times the bizarre.

Living in this city has given me this fantastic exposure to art; and, I have been fortunate to witness a wide and diverse selection.

The Menil Museum
The Menil Museum

I have been able to see the incredible collection at the Menil — one of Houston’s most famous museums. This architecturally significant building contains the works of artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Warhol, just to name a few. The museum also houses ancient artifacts from as far back as the Paleolithic era.

One of the coolest exhibits I have ever seen was at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This mesmerizing, dizzying display was composed entirely of colored lights. Staring into these pieces gave the feeling of escaping space completely, giving the sensation of floating.

And then of course there is the National Museum of Funeral History. Here you can find artifacts and information about funerals spanning human history. Though definitely unusual, it is a fascinating museum. I mean, where else can you find a coffin resembling a chicken?

The other day, my mom and I went to see a video exhibit at the Houston Museum of Contemporary Art. The videos, however, made me feel like I was in that creepy tunnel scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That tunnel scene scared six-year-old me out of my mind. This trippy video exhibit had a similar effect on the sixteen-year-old version of me. After about fifteen minutes of fluctuating between feeling like an idiot with no concept of art to feeling terror and finally pure confusion, I had to give up.

But that’s how art should be. It’s not made to please everyone. That’s the point. People are different, and you don’t end up liking everyone you meet. Art is the same.

If you ever come to visit Houston, I hope one of these museums makes your list. Because whether your looking for good, bad, beautiful, ugly, or maybe just downright freaky, you can find it here.

Chameli Belk-Gupta is a California girl who finds herself living in Texas. She is currently in high school and very involved in her school’s theatre troop. Chameli learned to read in first grade on a road trip and has not stopped reading since. She reads everything from Jane Austen to Archie comics. She only ever orders vanilla ice cream and can’t stand chocolate. Chameli loves old movies, vintage clothing, music and travel. Her only fears are buttons and minnows.

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