The distance between Selma and Montgomery, in Alabama, is about fifty miles. When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and hundreds of protesters famously marched that route, in March of 1965, to secure equal voting rights for blacks, it took three separate efforts to complete the trip, with a lot of blood spilled along the way. By comparison, the two Houston parades honoring Dr. King on Martin Luther King Jr. Day—the twenty-second annual MLK Grande Parade and the thirty-eighth annual “Original” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade—are, at about one mile each, a relative cakewalk for the floats, bands, and performers participating in them. And for the hundreds of thousands of spectators gathered for both affairs, there is little more required of them than to simply stand there and soak it all in. So with no real commitment involved, how can you afford not to get out there in a show of support? Equal rights, not just among blacks, are being infringed upon at an increasing rate. It’s time to unite against discrimination of all forms. Deciding which parade to attend, not whether or not to attend at all, should be the only debate here. If you live near Midtown, the Grande Parade is going to look convenient, while the Original Parade is more suitable for downtowners. If you’ve got the spirit of a community builder, then maybe go with the Grande, whose theme this year is “It Takes a Village,” but if you’re still angry about past injustices, then maybe the Original, whose theme is “Reparations Now,” is your bag. Better yet, try to make the front end of one and the back end of the other—if that’s a dream you have.
Various locations, January 18, 10 a.m., mlkgrandeparade.org and blackheritagesociety.org
How the West Was Won
With Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry set out to demythologize the cowboy, but over time his readers—or more appropriately, the millions of people who have watched the adapted television miniseries—have turned the western into just the opposite: an epic glorification of the cowboy. Thirty years after its publication, McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, which follows two retired Texas Rangers on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana, will be celebrated with “The Lonesome Dove Reunion & Trail,” a series of programs and exhibits held throughout the spring at multiple venues in Fort Worth and Albany. Bill Wittliff, who wrote the Lonesome Dove screenplay, is organizing the event through the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. The festivities will culminate in late March with an already sold-out reunion of the cast and crew, including Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, but will begin this Friday with the exhibit “Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story” at the Sid Richardson Museum. The latter is a good primer for the subsequent activities, including the exhibit “Bullets and Bustles: Costumes of Lonesome Dove” at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, beginning February 19, and the panel discussion “Vaqueros, Cowboys, and Cowgirls: Texas Cattle Trails to the World” at the Fort Worth Library, on April 2. The Sid Richardson show will display production materials from the Lonesome Dove shoot along with the annotated first and last three pages of the first draft of McMurtry’s manuscript. These pieces and others are paired with paintings and bronzes by the great Western artists Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell to illuminate the Lonesome Dove storyline. For example, Remington’s painting The Stampede features a cowboy wrangling livestock during a storm, not unlike the Lonesome Dove character Newt, who faced a stampede while riding a horse gone wild. Meanwhile, the Russell painting Breaking Camp depicts cowboys taming unruly horses, a skill displayed by both Newt and Call. “These artists’ iconic works illuminate the West’s vitality of action, archetypal characters, scenes of danger as well as camaraderie, and sense of place in time,” museum curator Mary Burke explained.
Sid Richardson Museum, January 15 to June 19, sidrichardsonmuseum.org
Members of the Greatest Generation are reaching extinction but accounts of how they rallied around World War II to solidify the United States as the greatest place on earth won’t likely ever fade away. In the exhibition “Tom Lea: Life and WWII,” open through this weekend at the National Museum of the Pacific War, about two dozen paintings and works on paper by Lea, the El Paso artist that Life magazine hired in 1941 as a war correspondent, are on display—some for the first time. Lea, who had previously illustrated books for the Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, was embedded in a number of far-flung places but his time with the U.S. Marines when they engaged the Japanese in battle on the South Pacific island of Peleliu, in 1944, is where he made his mark. From that experience Lea painted his masterpiece, That 2,000 Yard Stare, featuring a soldier with a zoned-out expression elicited by all the mayhem around him. That work is in the exhibit, on loan from the U.S. Army Center of Military History, and is cause for a reevaluation of the justification of war. Lea once described the Marine depicted in the painting as such: “He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”
National Museum of the Pacific War, January 15–16, pacificwarmuseum.org
Down to a Fine Art
There’s no denying the music and film scenes in Austin, but the visual arts scene has been sorely lacking. That is until recently. In 2013 the University of Texas Landmarks program opened a James Turrell “skyspace”; now the school’s Blanton Museum of Art is in the process of completing an Austin-centric installation by Ellsworth Kelly. And on Wednesday, the Blanton will host two grand poobahs of art for a free, first-come, first-served discussion. One of said poobahs is Ed Ruscha, the “West Coast Cool” pop artist who advocated the art of design and in 2013 was included on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world. The other is Dave Hickey, the longtime Texas art critic, gallery owner, and short story writer whose books of essays, among them Air Guitar and The Invisible Dragon, helped him earn a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2001. The occasion for their talk is the unveiling of Ruscha’s papers and art collection at the Harry Ransom Center, another UT institution. Ruscha and Hickey have known each other a long time and both understand a lot more about art than most people. There will probably be an opportunity to ask them questions, but a smarter idea might be to shut up and listen.
Blanton Museum of Art, January 20, 6 p.m., blantonmuseum.org
His Art Was Instrumental
Of the fewer than forty paintings done by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, the majority include subjects portrayed bearing an instrument, as if Vermeer were working out his frustration at being a repressed musician. In the exhibition “Vermeer Suite: Music in 17th-Century Dutch Painting,” art enthusiasts get a chance to see one of Vermeer’s purportedly final paintings, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal. They also get to learn about bygone instruments of the period, like the virginal, a fancy keyboard of sorts belonging to the upper class during the Baroque era, along with other noisemakers represented in the exhibit’s complementary paintings, which were created by Vermeer’s contemporaries.
Dallas Museum of Art, January 17 to August 21, dma.org
The Rothko Chapel is built on a foundation of peace and to reinforce that basis, the Rothko not only has a sculpture on the grounds, titled Broken Obelisk, that is dedicated to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King but it also hosts an annual program surrounding King’s birthday. This year’s proceedings will be divided into two sessions: on Friday, a panel discussion, titled “Still Dreaming: Black Lives Matter, Hip Hop, and MLK’s Legacy,” will be held, featuring among others the rapper Bun B; and on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, audio of King’s speeches will be broadcast on the chapel grounds throughout the afternoon.
The Rothko Chapel, January 15 at 7 p.m. and January 18 at 11 a.m., rothkochapel.org