Throw your plans out the window. We scoured the state in search of the top events and offerings, from Mardi Gras in Port Arthur to a chicken soup cookoff in Houston. Here’s our super select guide to the things you absolutely can’t afford to miss.
[Feb 10–Feb 16]
Wild, Wild Watercolors
Charles M. Russell, the painter of the mythic west, was from Missouri, cut his teeth in Montana, and made his name in New York, but you will find his best works in Texas. This is largely because Amon Carter of the Amon Carter Museum—the host of the new exhibition “Romance Maker: The Watercolors of Charles M. Russell”—built his museum on Russell’s works. Carter started his collection with about 325 pieces by Russell, which his friend Will Rogers influenced him to acquire, and about 75 pieces by Frederic Remington, Russell’s contemporary in the chronicling of cowboys and Indians. “Romance Maker” will show the progression of this prolific, self-taught artist. “Russell achieved mastery in watercolor that is as good as anyone at the time who was trained,” said Rick Stewart, the exhibition’s curator. “Anthropologists are amazed at his detail and accuracy.” While an abundance of Russells have always been viewable in Fort Worth, a component of this exhibition will reveal the science behind the making of Russell’s watercolors.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, February 11-May 13, various times. cartermuseum.org
The Write Stuff
The creative writing program at the University of Houston isn’t mentioned these days without a debate about whether or not James Franco, the actor and eternal student, will one day matriculate in the Ph.D. program. Unfortunately, the hullabaloo has drawn attention away from the faculty that has elevated the program to one of the finest in the country. This includes Nick Flynn, a past Guggenheim fellow (whose memoir is being made into a movie with Robert De Niro), and Tony Hoagland, a mentor to Franco, who in 2005 won the O.B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize, the only national award to recognize a poet’s teaching as well as his art. The Poetry and Prose Reading Series is a way for these teacher-writers to reclaim their names from Franco. “The goal is to make available the work of the U.H. creative writing faculty and students to the U.H. community on campus, although the public is welcome to these readings and encouraged to come,” said Antonya Nelson, who, with her husband, Robert Boswell, will kick off the series. She hinted that she might read short stories that she has yet to publish.
University of Houston, February 15, 5:30 p.m. uh.edu
Cotton was the fabric of our lives long before the advertising tagline told us so. The annual Winedale Quilt Show, this year dubbed “Making Do with Little: Cotton Sacks and Cotton Sack Quilts,” looks back to the Great Depression, when the sacks that transported commodities like sugar, feed, and tobacco were born again as curtains, pajamas, and, of course, quilts. The manufacturers of these sacks recognized this trend and redesigned their bags with design in mind. “If your wife has sent you to the store and the choice is between this bag of flour and that bag of flour,” said Katherine Adams, the exhibition’s curator, “you’re going to buy the one with the print and not the one that’s white and ugly.” The exhibition comprises pieces from the 1930s to 1987, including eleven quilts and various household items made out of the sacks. For practitioners of the DIY aesthetic and supporters of the green movement, it’s a chance to see the historical precedent of your pursuits.
Winedale Historical Complex, February 12-25, various times. cah.utexas.edu
Revelry and Revival
Treme, the HBO series about life in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has taught us the integral role that Mardi Gras plays in the city’s revival. But if you can’t afford to travel to the Big Easy to toot your horn on Bourbon Street, travel instead to the Southeast Texas Mardi Gras in Port Arthur. The Gulf Coast town is one of the closest Texas cities to New Orleans, making it home to a number of the displaced. This has ratcheted up the revelry, and could make you more susceptible to the trance of the second line.
Downtown, February 16-19, various times. mardigras.portarthur.com
It’s the season of sniffling and sneezing, and chicken soup in a can won’t do, so crawl out of your Snuggie and attend the Chicken Soup Cookoff, where more than forty different restaurants will turn the routine into something special, providing you with new ways to medicate.
Congregation Emanu El, February 12, 11:30 a.m. chickensoupcookoff.com
The couture of the French designer Jean Paul Gaultier is so outrageous that no self-respecting Texan would be caught in it, but Texans respect unconventional wisdom, which is why even anti-fashionistas wouldn’t miss the closing weekend of the exhibition “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.”
Dallas Museum of Art, February 10-12, 11 a.m. dm-art.org