Around the State

For Texas baseball fans, April is the cruelest month. Find out if the Rangers go down swinging this year—and if the Astros will be safe at home. Plus: Wildflower power (Austin), head-turning tribal masks (Houston), Russian ballerinas on their toes (El Paso), and the twentieth century by design (Dallas). Edited by Quita McMath, Erin Gromen, and Cheri Ballew

The Main Event

Diamonds Are Forever

The start of a new baseball season brings back memories of better days. Just two years ago the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers were contending for division championships before the players went on strike. Now both teams seem to be heading in the wrong direction: down, in the case of the pitching-poor Rangers, and out of town, in the case of the Astros, whose owner, Drayton McLane, is threatening to move the team because of dwindling fan support. But in April there is always hope, and perhaps this will be the year when fans come back to the Astrodome, the Rangers shed the ignominy of being the only team other than the two-year-old Florida Marlins never to have played in a post-season game, and October brings us the World Series of Interstate 45. For true believers, on April 1 the Astros, led by slugger Jeff Bagwell (right), open their home season against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Rangers host the Boston Red Sox. Paul Burka

Art

Arts of Stone

A thousand years before the Maya there were the Olmecs, the powerhouse culture of Mexican and Central American history. The Olmecs were a sophisticated people with a numbering system that embraced the concept of zero (a mathematical understanding that predated even the Romans’). Their artistic legacy is also sizable—in particular, the gargantuan, forty-ton basalt heads for which they are best known today. A panoply of smaller but still impressive pieces dominates “The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership,” a new exhibit opening April 14 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Some 270 objects include jewelry made of jade, obsidian, and serpentine (a mottled green stone), the jade mask above, and figurines of various gods, notably the “were-jaguar,” the half-human, half-feline Zeus of the Olmec pantheon. In addition, incised bowls, vases, and other vessels showcase the Olmecs’ proficiency with terra-cotta and clay. The ancient artists’ technical skill is all the more stunning given that their only tools were made of stone. Anne Dingus

Design

On the Twentieth Century

The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Hot Cars, High Fashion, Cool Stuff: Designs of the Twentieth Century” is nothing less than a history of our times as embodied in the art of (mostly) useful things. Visitors can stroll through splashy sets representing each decade’s unique style, from turn-of-the-century art nouveau to particleboard postmodernism, accompanied by ambient mass media ranging from silent film to rock and roll. The substance of this show, which opens on March 31, is the transformation of the ordinary—televisions, teapots, dinner plates, sofas (at left is “Marshmallow Sofa” by George Nelson Associates, 1955)—into works of art; Ray and Charles Eames’s 1946 plywood-and-canvas folding screen is as sublime as any minimalist sculpture. But the sizzle comes from objects of less than universal application. The 1933 Cadillac Custom Golf Coupe, complete with two compartments for golf clubs under the hood, provides an appropriate centerpiece for mannequins partying in period haute couture. Alas, the golf coupe was an idea whose time never came; only two were built. Michael Ennis

Festival

Flora! Flora! Flora!

When spring crazy-quilts the roadsides and fields in mellow shades of blue, pink, gold, and crimson, you may find yourself longing to grow your own. (We meant wildflowers. What did you think we meant?) Or perhaps you’re just seeking a pretty place to enjoy them. The annual Wildflower Days Festival at the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin (April 13 and 14) should satisfy both urges. You can chat with gardening authors and landscape architects, hear nationally known horticultural and environmental speakers discuss “Installing a Pocket Meadow” and “Going Native,” and explore the center’s grounds (the rustic but modern limestone buildings, with their Hill Country look, are as appealing as the flowers). Between scheduled events, check out the native-plant gardens and the booths selling seeds and indigenous plants, listen to Bill Oliver and the Otter Space Band, and nibble on barbecue, peach cobbler, and Amy’s ice cream. Or, best of all, find a shady bench or nook and bask in the glory of Indian paintbrushes, pink evening primroses, and bluebonnets at the peak of their form. Patricia Sharpe

Dance

Moscow on the Rio Grande

What do Texas and the Bolshoi Ballet have in common? In Russian, “bolshoi” means “big,” and what is Texas if not bolshoi? Renowned for its spectacular artistry, the legendary Moscow ballet troupe, which last visited El Paso in 1993, is returning to help the El Paso Symphony Orchestra celebrate its sixty-fifth season. On April 26 and 27 the EPSO will accompany the Bolshoi’s principal dancers (including Natalia Arkhipova and Mikhail Bessmertnov, right) and corps de ballet in two different evening programs that will include divertissements and Act II of Swan Lake, Act II of Giselle, Suite from Don Quixote, and Chopiniana. The latter, known in the not-so-wild West as Les Sylphides, will be danced by the corps in Romantic tutus (the long skirts, as opposed to the short, classic tutu). The EPSO has much to celebrate these days: its anniversary, of course, a recent tour of Germany that has burnished its reputation—and this gala encore pas de deux with the Bolshoi. Nancy Boensch

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