Around the State

October 2006By Comments

Art Museum Of South Texas

Corpus Christi

LET’S BE BRUTALLY HONEST: Corpus Christi’s art scene flies well below the radar, if it leaves the ground at all. Cutting-edge installations or high-profile exhibitions? Any self-respecting art snob knows to go to Houston or Dallas or Fort Worth or San Antonio. Marfa attracts more curious visitors, for goodness’ sake.

But forget the obvious for a moment. Lately this port metropolis has been striving to snag the state’s attention and attract some culturati of its own. One need only notice the recent bumper crop of civic institutions and entertainment hubs springing up: the Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Center in 2000, the Concrete Street Amphitheater in 2001, the American Bank Center in 2004, Whataburger Field and the Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi Performing Arts Center in 2005. Arguably the most beautifully situated city in Texas, Corpus Christi may soon be more than just the gateway to Padre Island. “We’ve had this mind-set that if something has been good all these years, it’s good enough for us,” says Corpus Christi Caller-Times columnist Nick Jimenez of his town’s inability to break out of mediocrity. “Now we’re thinking, ‘What took us so long?’”

Indeed. At the nucleus of this newfound energy is the Art Museum of South Texas, which unveils a second building—stark white like the first, and also by a big-deal architect—on October 8. It may not be the year’s most anticipated opening, but it’s an apt symbol of Corpus Christi’s resurgence—and resolve. The original Philip Johnson–designed museum made headlines when it opened in 1972, but the city’s cultural bulb dimmed in the next decades (the eighties oil bust didn’t help). Yet now the repository is in the spotlight again. And unlike the year’s other big museum project (that would be Austin’s Blanton), this one is as much about creating a pretty space as it is about showing off the permanent collection.

The first structure was a tough act to follow, much less add to. But Ricardo Legorreta, one of Mexico’s best-known architects (together with his son, Victor) has played it smart. Their work may look a lot like its predecessor (well, except for those gleaming copper pyramids on the roof), but inside it’s replete with Legorreta hallmarks—bold colors, lots of light, unusual wall placement. Plus, it has 12,000 more square feet for exhibits and a cafe that looks out on a moving picture show of ships. Lovely and functional, how ’bout that.

Though three exhibits opening this month are highlights from the permanent holdings (“Modernism/Abstraction,” “Contemporary Expressions,” and “Western and Wildlife Art”), look for director Bill Otton to bring in a range of shows. Past block- busters like 2004’s “¡Arte Caliente!” and “Migrations: Humanity in Transition” were a hit with the region’s Hispanic audience. A wider appeal, good educational programming, and playing up the museum as a lei- sure destination should help it keep its luster this time around. (Says Jimenez: “I might go just to have a sandwich in the cafe.”)

Here’s hoping these developments give way to a revitalized identity for Corpus Christi, both in and out of town. The Sparkling City by the Sea might just deserve a big colored thumbtack on the state’s cultural map after all. 1902 N. Shoreline Blvd, 361-825-3500,

No Moss Here

El Paso, Austin

Just as the Rolling Stones’ campy, machismo-oozing, blues-based rock and roll signaled a musical shift in the sixties, their enduring popularity heralds today’s demographic truth: It’s a baby boomer’s world. Still slim-hipped and frisky (onstage at least), the band members (all 59 or older) haven’t escaped a spate of recent mortality- reminding setbacks: Keith Richards’s brain surgery after plopping out of a coconut tree in Fiji, Ron Wood’s stint in rehab, Mick Jagger’s concert-canceling bout with laryngitis. But the men, who were still boys in 1966 when they sang “What a drag it is getting old,” aren’t sitting on their aging posteriors. Instead they’re embarking on an encore of last year’s “A Bigger Bang” tour and performing in various cities for the first time, Austin included. Student discounts and young (relatively speaking), hip guest artists (Kanye West and Dave Matthews, for example) might be concessions to more-youthful fans, but make no mistake—a Stones concert gets sweeter with age. Oct 20: Sun Bowl Stadium, Baltimore & Sun Bowl Dr, El Paso; 915-544-8444; Oct 22: Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Rd, Austin; 866-461-2782

Gold Fingers


What do you get when you combine a rock band for hire, a symphony, and forty-plus years’ worth of musical scores from one of the longest-running film franchises in the world? That’s right, a genre-bending night set to the tunes of Bond—James Bond. Jeans ’n Classics—an alternating cast of Canadian musicians who mainly cover classic rock and R&B staples—will join the Symphony of Southeast Texas for Shaken Not Stirred: The Music of James Bond. The singers and musicians who went through the Bond vaults to pick the evening’s killer songs had plenty of work for themselves, says Peter Brennan, who writes out the band’s and orchestra’s music for each performance. “There’s a lot more material than you can cover in one show.” Which only means that much more fun for fans, especially during the tribute to the Austin Powers spy spoofs, featuring songs from Marvin Gaye, the Zombies, and the Monkees. And what Bond affair would be complete without the dapper Sean Connery? Alas, the original Agent 007 won’t be attending this performance, but keyboardist John Regan, who serves as host for the evening, will unleash his own “extremely bad” (read: hilarious) Connery impersonation on the crowd. “He’s a busy boy,” notes Brennan. Oct 7. Jefferson Theatre, 345 Fannin; 409-892-2257;

Agent of Change


“We have loss of innocent life on both sides, in Israel as well as in Lebanon. It has to stop … because every death sows another seed of militancy in the future, and of enmity, of distrust, of anger, that can last generations.” The Brilliant Lecture Series welcomes Queen Noor, the widow of Jordan’s King Hussein and a current adviser to the United Nations, as its inaugural guest. Oct 2. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Sarofim Hall, 800 Bagby; 713-315-2525;

Sip ’n Go

Hill Country

Texas’s wine industry is being compared to California’s circa the sixties and seventies, which is to say it’s just on the brink of earning the world’s respect. It’s never popular to jump on the bandwagon prematurely, but ours is the fifth-largest wine-producing state, so it’s entirely reasonable to start sampling as many native vintages as possible. That it’s Texas Wine Month further validates an excursion along the Passport Trail, which stretches from Bend to New Braunfels and is dotted with twenty wineries. For the $25 price, it’s most economical to hit as many as you can, but do pace yourself—you’ve seen Sideways, haven’t you? Oct 1–31. Various locations, 866-621-9463,

Patrons’ Saint


Acquiring art remains a healthy national pastime (exhibit A: Ronald S. Lauder’s recent purchase of Gustav Klimt’s 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer for a reported $135 million), but rarely are collectors featured as prominently in a major museum exhibit as they are in “Klee and America,” unveiled this month at the Menil Collection. Curated by director Josef Helfenstein, the show’s 89 paintings and drawings by the Swiss-born Paul Klee (pronounced “Klay”) aren’t organized chronologically but by collector, in an attempt to explain the Modernist’s popularity in America in the thirties and forties. It’s an arresting backstory: In the twenties, Klee was being feted in Europe as one of the fathers of Dada and Surrealism, but his fortunes changed the following decade when Hitler took control of Germany, where Klee was teaching at the Art Academy in Duesseldorf. He was removed from his post, and his works were condemned by the Nazis as examples of entartete Kunst (“degenerate art”). But just as the European market for his art was disintegrating, the U.S. one was heating up, largely thanks to a Klee show at the newly opened Museum of Modern Art in New York and influential art impresarios on both coasts. The list of fans who’ve owned his work over the years reads like an iconic who’s who: Alexander Calder, Ernest Hemingway, Andy Warhol, Joseph Pulitzer, Billy Wilder, Nelson Rockefeller. At the Menil, two gallery walls will be filled with photographs and brief profiles of Klee’s many collectors. And modern-day admirers will have the rare treat of seeing one of Klee’s most famous drawings, Die Zwitscher-Maschine (The Twittering Machine), Houston being the only one of three U.S. hosting cities to be so lucky. “The most important thing to know about Klee,” says Helfenstein, “is that he was outside all the movements, which is why so many artists were fascinated by his work. This exhibit is a rediscovering of this magician of color and line.” Oct 6–Jan 28. 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400,

Crooning Glory


Tony Bennett has it all: a peerless voice, 50 million albums sold, thirteen Grammys—and a very busy schedule. Not only did the artist recently become an octogenarian, but he also just dropped his latest album, Tony Bennett: Duets/An American Classic, which features live duets with Barbra Streisand, Bono, Stevie Wonder, and Tim McGraw, among other heavyweights. And, as his upcoming date book proves, he won’t be falling off pace for some time. October 7: With his bel canto technique to thank for his ever-youthful sound, Bennett opens the Grand 1894 Opera House’s fall season. October/November: Stay tuned for NBC’s prime-time music special Tony Bennett: An American Classic, featuring short movie vignettes of the crooner’s career milestones. December 4: Now in his sixth decade as a performer, Bennett will receive the 2006 Billboard Century Award at the magazine’s televised gala in Las Vegas. 2007: Look for a second published volume of the multitalented singer’s artwork (one of his oil paintings is in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection), and expect to hear a lot about the Clint Eastwood– produced documentary about Bennett’s life set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Find the man dizzyingly hard to keep up with? Be glad he at least starts off in Texas. Oct 7. 2020 Postoffice, 800-821-1894,

All the Cool Kids Go


Of all the phenomena in this West Texas outpost, the annual Chinati Open House is the second most popular, behind those discombobulating lights. (If someone were to bet you that before the event the town’s population—approximately two thousand—would double nearly overnight, you’d do well to leave your money in your pocket.) Everyone’s favorite minimalist oasis (well, maybe not the locals’) has, thanks to late artist Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation, been hosting this two-day party for twenty years now; Judd, wherever he is, must feel pretty satisfied to see the throngs poking around his large-scale permanent installations. But you don’t have to “get” the art to have a good time, seeing as how there’s plenty of other ways to amuse yourself: documentary screenings, readings, lectures, rock concerts, breakfast, lunch, dinner—all free. Besides, the weekend is as much about the experience as the art—staying at the Thunderbird, eating at Maiya’s, hanging out at the Marfa Book Company, doing all the things that hip Marfans supposedly do according to Paris Vogue and the New York Times. Of course, as one local gallery owner put it, “If you want to experience Marfa, don’t come during Open House.” But if you can’t bear to be left out, then that’s exactly when you should show up. Oct 7 & 8. The Chinati Foundation, 1 Cavalry Row; 432-729-4362;

Kicking and Streaming

Austin, Houston

You needn’t know much about a dance company to enjoy its performance; the costumes and music are usually context enough. But a bit of preparatory Web stalking—er, searching—before Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s two Texas shows this month will further enamor you of this contemporary troupe. On its site (, which makes full use of the members’ verve and photogenic charm, the company takes you along on its worldwide ride via video diaries, documenting trips to Portugal, Ireland, and beyond: See the dancers checking their luggage, see the dancers at their hotel, see the dancers eating, sunbathing, rehearsing, icing their knees, performing, bowing, and doing all manner of goofy things (soundbites add to the humor). Virtual photo albums accompany these mini-montages, shot mostly by dancer Tobin Del Cuore, lest you feel excluded from any behind-the-scenes goings-on. Of course, some will want to see Hubbard Street because its dancers are so engagingly athletic and its pieces are choreographed by the most creative minds in the biz (Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, Jirí Kylián, William Forsythe, and Lar Lubovitch, for example). But after peeking into the group’s otherwise unseen world, it’s okay to go just to root for your newest friends. Oct 12: Bass Concert Hall, 23rd & Robert Dedman Dr, Austin; 512-477-6060; Oct 14: Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana, Houston; 713-227-4772;

Reel Women


With film-screening passes going for only $35, even the thriftiest of penny-pinchers will be able to get their cinematic kicks at this year’s Austin Film Festival. For those more interested in panels (or with more money to burn), of special note is a promising new injection of estrogen: The female auteurs behind Erin Brockovich, Sex and the City, and The Bernie Mac Show will talk about the challenges of making it in the film industry. Oct 19–26. Various locations, 512-478-4795 or 800-310-3378,

National Review


Don’t be misled by the title of the Texas Book Festival. This lettered party boasts a scope both national as well as local, featuring such non- Texan authors as Noticiero Univisión co- anchor María Elena Salinas, PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley, and star senator Barack Obama, who will be coming to speak about topics far removed from the Lone Star State. The event’s literary director, Clay Smith, promises to keep bibliophiles engaged as in years past by pre- senting the authors and their work in a variety of formats—panel discussions, interviews, lectures—that go beyond your standard-issue readings. (“You can see that in a bookstore on almost any day,” he reasons.) In one session, Matthew Continetti (The K Street Gang) and Peter H. Stone (Heist) will trade thoughts on their books’ focus on the Jack Abramoff scandal. Says Smith: “It’s great when you can do that kind of national story with Texas roots.” Oct 27–29. Vari- ous locations, 512-477-4055,

Mountain Do

El Paso

It may suffer an inferiority complex when stacked up against cultural megaspots Houston and Dallas, but this border city has its own bragging point: All hail the majestic Franklin Mountains. The largest sustained range in Texas, these natural wonders top out at 7,192 feet and make for some of the state’s most beautiful scenery. El Paso goes beyond mere lip service with its Celebration of Our Mountains, six weeks’ worth of see-for-yourself hikes, bike rides, driving tours, and overnight jaunts. What began as a modest series of student field trips more than twenty years ago has erupted into forty-plus tours, several of which spill over into New Mexico and Mexico. For the novice: Organ Mountains 101/Achenbach Canyon—this short, leisurely hike begins in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is led by naturalist and longtime area resident Jack Davis. For the expert: McKelligon Canyon Hike—two quarts of water and leather gloves are mandatory for this moderately strenuous trek to the top of the rocky canyon ridge. For birders: Keystone Heritage Park Birding Tour—the El Paso Audubon Society will help avian enthusiasts of all levels spot some of the park’s more than 180 species. For Explorers, Navigators, and Excursionists: Grand Tour of El Paso Geology—fill up your tank before joining this caravan in a loop around the Franklin Mountains; stop at designated areas for group discussions. Through Nov 5. Various locations, 915-542-1422,

Related Content