Sowing the Seeds
For six months in 2010, Britain’s top tourist attraction was in China. More than eight million people visited the “Seed Cathedral,” the winning entry out of two hundred themed pavilions created for the Shanghai World Expo. Conceived by Heatherwick Studio, the London architecture and design group founded by Thomas Heatherwick, the boxlike structure had 60,000 rods protruding outward about 25 feet, like a giant porcupine. The interior was lit up like a Lite-Brite, with 250,000 illuminated globes representing the seeds of life. Paul Goldberger, the former architecture critic for the New Yorker, called Heatherwick “the next Leonardo da Vinci.” In an impressive coup, the Nasher Sculpture Center has landed Heatherwick’s first North American exhibit, “Provocations.” In addition to a single rod from the Seed Cathedral, the show includes a full-scale mock-up of part of a new double-decker London bus and two of the 204 copper “petals” given to each of the countries in the 2012 Olympics used to form a cauldron of fire, resembling a flower, during the opening ceremony. “One of the things that I think is most important about the studio’s work is that they don’t have a signature style,” said Brooke Hodge of the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, who is the exhibit curator. “They always search for the most interesting, functional, and appropriate solution to every design problem and each new project is more amazing than the last.”
Nasher Sculpture Center, Sept. 13-Jan. 4, nashersculpturecenter.org


Films, Etcetera
Fantastic Fest, the eight-day fantasy, horror, and sci-fi film festival known for its far-out programs and events, has reason to be especially off-the-wall this year. Not only is it the festival’s tenth incarnation, but it is also the first time it will be held, in part, at the renovated Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar Boulevard, the anchor of the national movie-theater chain started by Tim League, who also founded Fantastic Fest with fellow Austin residents, Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News, and Tim McCanlies, a screenwriter. The movies, including the American premieres of Kevin Smith’s Tusk and Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, are almost an afterthought with events like the Ten-Year Birthday Armageddon, an opening-night rampage culminating in a food fight; Karaoke Apocalypse, featuring karaoke with a live heavy metal band; and Maltin’s Game Tournament, a movie trivia contest with the critic Leonard Maltin. This year is also the fifth anniversary of Fantastic Arcade, an indie videogame festival within the larger festival, organized by Wiley Wiggins, who acted in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.
Various locations, Sept. 18-25, fantasticfest.com


Dream On
The stars in the sky will not be visible from inside the Wortham Center, but they will nonetheless be aligned for the Houston Ballet’s final four shows of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The romantic comedy with fairies, actors, and Athenian royalty inaugurates the ballet company’s forty-fifth season—during which, fittingly, is also the four-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. The Houston Ballet will continue celebrating Shakespeare in 2015, with productions of Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew, but it is the first in this series of homages that is arguably the most anticipated. It marks the return of John Neumeier, the artistic director of the Hamburg Ballet in Germany, who, in 1977, staged A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Houston Ballet, making it the first ever American ballet company to perform the work.
Wortham Center, Sept. 12-14, houstonballet.org


Just Like Heaven
There is a town in the Texas Hill Country called Utopia. And to attendees of the sixth annual UtopiaFest, these three square miles 85 miles west of San Antonio might indeed feel like a true utopia. This camp-out music festival not only limits tickets to two thousand, there is no overlap in sets by more than two dozen bands, including the headliners GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan (with Brownout) and Dan Deacon. In this version of utopia, attendees do not have to blow all of their cash on essentials: water is free and you can bring your own beer.
1555 Lemond Rd., Sept. 12-14, utopiafest.com


Mother’s Milk
Breastfeeding is not always an option, as is shown in the exhibit “Supply and Demand.” Sarah Sudhoff, a San Antonio artist frustrated by her inability to produce enough milk for her child, uses plenty of it (though not her own) to create performance-art videos, typologies, self-portraits, and sculpture.
French & Michigan, Sept. 15-Oct. 11, frenchandmichigan.com


Goodbye Toadies
In addition to Texas bands like the Old 97s and Ume, the seventh annual Dia de los Toadies music festival will star the Toadies, the Fort Worth alt-rockers, who will play the final show in support of the twentieth anniversary of their album Rubberneck, to be performed in its entirety.
Panther Island Pavilion, Sept. 12-13, thetoadies.com