Houston Institute for Culture


Houston Museum of Culture
        Houston Museum of Culture

Vision for Houston: The Astrodome
        Vision for Houston: The Astrodome

Recommendations: The BIG 5 for BIG D
         Recommendations: The BIG 5 for BIG D

Imagine a Museum: Texas Museum of Culture
        Imagine a Museum: Texas Museum of Culture


Houston Institute for Culture was founded at University of Houston (UH) by Mark Lacy as an inter-university program to bring international activities to the city, to be shared by various universities, including UH, Rice University, University of St. Thomas, Texas Southern University, etc.
Houston Institute for Culture incorporated in Texas as an educational, non-profit organization.
Houston Institute for Culture became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Houston Institute for Culture produced and provided 30-60 programs per year, including events at university campuses, arts venues, city parks and theaters. The organization also developed youth programs, including after-school programs and summer camps.
The success of and the need for Houston Institute for Culture programming brought about new ideas for its future, including the possibility of establishing a major, highly innovative museum, the Houston Museum of Culture. The organization presented the concept to philanthropists who helped it conduct a study of other national and international cultural resources, and to compare them to the perceived largest visitor attractions in Houston and other Texas cities.

The results showed that professional sports were near the top of their capacity to provide for visitors, while top cultural assets, like top-ranked museums, in most U.S. cities (even Houston) out-performed professional sports; and, Texas cities had tremendous more opportunity to expand their capacity in areas like arts, culture, education, humanities, media and most areas of social sciences. And the capacity of new and existing cultural assets could easily double or triple in visitor impact. The strongest concept remained the Museum of Culture, with the potential to serve 2-5 million visitors and increase visitors for most of the city's other cultural assets.

The three-year Vision for Houston program concluded with the possibility that a provident Museum of Culture might be established in Houston's historic East End (near downtown), or in the highly diverse Southwest Houston/Bellaire area, or in the Astrodome, a resource that has been vacant and its future hotly contested for many years. The Astrodome recently achieved historic status, but is being viewed as a potential rental property to host multiple attractions, rather than a major, world-leading institution. Vision for Houston identified several other provident and innovative ideas for the nation's fourth largest city, though the city's capability and progressive outlook for the future remains questionable.

A variety of changes came to Houston, many with negative impacts and implications, causing the organization to evaluate its role in providing programs for the city.
The unofficial flagship event of the city, the Houston International Festival, came to an end due to high production costs (including use of city parks) and rising ticket prices, resulting in declining support by the public.

As events were being planned for the upcoming year (2015), City of Houston leaders lacked interest in raising the profile of key events, such as the 150 year anniversary of one of the most important human rights milestones in the world - the end of slavery as celebrated by Juneteenth - a historic commemoration that originates in Galveston and Houston. The 2014 celebration presented by Houston Institute for Culture (HIFC) at Miller Outdoor Theatre featured Allen Toussaint, one of the most recognized figures in the legacy of American and African American music history. HIFC advocated that city leaders should mark the occasion with an even larger celebration in additional parks to honor it sesquicentennial, possibly attracting pop artists, like Houston's Beyonce Knowles. By the following year, 2015, some Houston community leaders were even interested to move the annual Pride Parade and celebration to the same weekend as the annual Juneteenth commemoration.

Various event-producing organizations experienced difficulty due to restructuring and reprioritizing of city venues and programming, causing a loss of programming organizations.

A community advocate that Houston Institute for Culture (HIFC) was working with to bring programs to the underserved Southeast side of Houston was murdered in the venue where it was hoped a large scale arts venue would be established with key support of the property owner, a descendent of an important Houston philanthropist.

The organization experienced a setback while working with a local promoter on an event that was to raise funds of the Houston Institute for Culture, though the event failed and the unscrupulous promoter ducked responsibility.

A city arts official with the Houston Arts Alliance indirectly meddled with a NEA panelist, through inappropriate influence and by utilizing incorrect information that suggested violating city policies, and jeopardized HIFC's federal funding for the production of Houston's Juneteenth Celebration.
Various other losses marred the year and made the future of non-commercial programming in Houston highly volatile.

Houston Institute for Culture wound down its event programming in favor of making future efforts to establish a major, internationally-known attraction with the city's name, Houston Museum of Culture.

The concept of the Museum of Culture is the boundless frontier of museums, especially for Texas cities, like Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, that boast about their diversity, economy, modern industries, and their impact on ways of life, not to mention the prominance of their foods, musics, arts, religions, politics, traditions and social life.

Houston Institute for Culture and its founder, Mark Lacy, collectively had millions of documents to contend with, and long-planned program ideas to preserve the archives and help others with similar challenges. The Digital Story Resource Center continued to manage and utilize the valued historic resources - many of which were moved from Houston to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to avoid the threat of Houston's annual flooding and frequent hurricanes.
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) was faced with a similar question: What should it do with a stadium that is no longer needed for professional sports? Though not as innovative or historic as the Houston Astrodome, the Texas Rangers Stadium has great potential to be a major museum, community center and major festival/activity center, along the lines of what Vision for Houston proposed for that city, potentially attracting 3-5 million visitors and being a tremendous educational and cultural asset for DFW.

Imagine a Museum initially worked to promote the concept, but upon learning that the baseball team ownership would own the stadium, rather than the City of Arlington (Texas), it was clear that little use could come of it, though in report findings, its potential as a major museum and activity center expanded to include other, even larger uses, like a regional transportation center on the order and impact of the nation's largest ones. Though Arlington is highly unlikely to be a visionary place that emerges as the cultural center of the Metroplex, the Imagine a Museum concept is still alive in a vibrant and critical North Texas region that may one day utilize it to rise to the level of the top World Class Cities.

Arlington Potential
Impacts of Cultural Assets in Millions of Visitors

The research that went into the initial report for Vision for Houston was expanded to include other Cultural Resources and Visitor Attractions. Parts of it are still in progress and sections will be updated as needed in the coming year.
The expanded report for DFW resulted in a set of highly visionary recommendations, The BIG 5 for BIG D and others, including expanding parks, connecting communities and providing transportation alternatives to freeways.

The goal is to involve city leaders and philanthropists in forming a "Plan A" for DFW's future to be not just a Supercity of necessity, but a great one that leads the world in visitor interests and quality of life.

Facebook Links

Houston Museum of Culture

Vision for Houston

Imagine a Museum

Texas Museum of Culture

Houston Institute for Culture

Additional Projects

Artery 2
Digital Story Resource Center
Mobile Media Lab
Camp Dos Cabezas (Permanent Camp)

Report: Cultural Resources and Visitor Attractions

Provident Visions for the Future of Texas

To achieve higher quality of life standards, Houston Institute for Culture promotes cultural knowledge and experience through public arts and topical programs, and innovative approaches to social change through education about cultural influences - history, media, religion, arts, environment, economics, and more.

   Copyright 2017 by Houston Institute for Culture