Champagne Bubbles Provide Extra Lift at the 1940 Houston Air Terminal

“Holy cow!! That’s a GyroCraft!”

My friend, muralist Lee Jamison ( http://www.baylor.edu/mayborn/index.php?id=58204) spotted the image as he and I were walking in to the party at the wonderful Art Deco 1940 Houston Air Terminal tonight. The image is in one of the plaques over the windows. Here’s what he saw:

This is Lee:

Air Terminal administrator and curator, Megan Lickliter-Mundon, confirmed Lee’s know-it-all superpowers then gave us a quick overview of the Terminal building’s future.

It is one of the very few Art Deco buildings left in Houston, but came damned close to being torn down. The outside of the building was badly damaged in the ’80s and the row of plaques on the right side of the door were deeply scarred. They’re going to stay that way: Megan explained that the damage is part of the history of the building, part of it’s story.

Renovation and restoration are the plan for the inside, however, and I’m very excited to see what they do, especially after meeting the staff. Terminal Museum Director A.J. High seems to have built a good team: Megan obviously knows what she’s about, but more than that, all the staff members we met had a fresh exuberance about them. There was a palpable pride in their institution and real sense of playfulness that was evident in their great costumes and the easy way they engaged with their visitors. How fun are these people?? Check out Megan and AJ’s great ensemble:

Besides seeing the exhibits and noshing, we were invited to choose from a variety of tourist costume pieces, then get our picture taken by a professional photographer. What a great idea! I loved participating in such a fun extra and had a ball watching other party-goers play, including SETMA president Susan Smyer and her husband. (The bright blue hat was you, Susan:)

I dunno what the rest of you were served at the other parties tonight, but we were treated to BB’s Cajun including crab cakes, bacon wrapped shrimp and chicken, ceviche, fajitas, and OhMyHeavens the BEST brownies EVER. (Thank heavens I ran this morning…) And I’ve not mentioned their generosity with the champagne and the wine tasting. Woohoo!

And so, here I am, the last festive evening, the last few words… The Party is over. Our museums are sweeping up and stashing the leftover appetizers for the docents, interns, and education staff to rummage through later. We are starting to relax.

I hope you’ll tell us it was all worth it. Lots of folks here pulled together (especially after losing Dr. Marzio) to watch over every detail and make sure we’d thought of EVERYTHING so you’d leave Houston with the best possible experience both professionally and personally. It’s been many many months spent preparing for *your* arrival.

Personally, I couldn’t be prouder.

Good luck, Minneapolis and St. Paul!!

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“What’s with the Crazy Lady and the Big Black Pimple??”

 How dare you suggest that it looks like a “pimple”! No, my dear, it’s a portable planetarium theater and it’s chock-full of fabulous technology projecting a FULL DOME PLANETARIUM EXPERIENCE!  (and that female narrator of the show they’re running… she sounds so familiar…)
 
Dr. Carolyn Sumners really is a crazy lady, though. Certifiable. I can attest to this – I used to work for her. She is what we call in these parts, “A Real Hoot.” If you took the time to visit with her while she and her team were at AAM 2011 in the Discovery Cart Zone this week, I’m sure you heard fabulous stories about how her portable dome has literally served thousands of kids during her tenure as the Director of Astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Every year, Carolyn and her staff connect with school children from around the city, teaching them the fundamentals of astronomy through her deep technology toolbox. If  you’re ever looking for someone who knows the ins and outs of outreach, she’s “The Bomb.”
 
Carolyn and her staff were a part of this year’s Discovery Cart Zone in the 3rd Floor Lobby, which also included the following museums hosting other Discovery Carts:

I hope you had a chance to stop by! I will not say whether each was populated with their own “crazy” representative – I wanted everyone to make their own “discovery,” so to speak. Let us know all about your Discovery Cart Zone adventures by commenting below!

— Cecelia Ottenweller, HexaGroup Creative,
member AAM 2011 PR & Marketing Subcommittee

EVENING EVENT UPDATE!!

Come Fly Away, one of tonight’s evening events, is actually being held at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. The location printed on the Event Tickets was Lone Star Flight Museum…oops!

Event details and times are the same as printed in the on-site program on Page 109.

Not to worry AAMers; we’ll get you to the right place!

Those of you driving yourselves or cabbing it, DO NOT trek all the way out to Galveston. The 1940 Air Terminal Museum is located at Hobby Airport in Houston – 8325 Travelair Street, Houston, TX 77061.

We apologize for any confusion!

– Albert Sanchez, AAM 2011 Houston Intern

Rocks and Stars at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

It was a trifle humbling to walk into the Houston Museum of Natural Science with Harley Cozewith, Director of Operations at the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science.

You’d think I’d arrived with Cher as my date. We’d just had drinks at Hotel Zaza before strolling over… “Harley!!” …didn’t make the front door quite… A 10 minute conversation on the steps, then inside and “Harley!!”

Well, at least we were in the air conditioning! We almost made the drink table, then “Harley!!”

My sweet friend Harley was VP of Ops at HMNS for many years before heading up to the excitement in Dallas 5 years ago. It was her responsibility to maintain sanity through HMNS’ remarkable changes in the ’90s and much of the 2000s (I guess I could call those years the “oughts?”) I was at the Museum during part of her tenure, in the Education and Astronomy/Physics departments for about 5 years before venturing off into my own adventures. So, I certainly experienced my own “homecoming” — old friends appeared everywhere and it felt good to be in familiar surroundings.

But not too familiar! WOW! The party swirled around big walls blocking off what used to be the paleontology hall, now a shadow of it’s former self. For those willing to seek it out, a detailed plan of the coming expansion was available on the second level. It’s going to be really something, folks… Definitely stay tuned.

I found Museum president Joel Bartsch and Lisa Rebori, VP of Collections, surveying the crowd from the upstairs balcony after leaving Harley to another crowd of admirers. They both looked satisfied with what they saw and were enjoying that moment of satisfied exhaustion when planning has finally born fruit. Their guests below and around them were obviously having a good time.

“What’s the one exhibit we have to see?” This was the most popular question. The Gem and Mineral Hall. Absolute MUST. The most spectacular collection, *period*. Yes, the hall is short on context – I remember that being a grousing point when it was installed, but Good Heavens, it is breathtaking. You just can’t beat it for capturing the sheer romance and passion of each and every piece in the collection. It’s a feast for the senses.

I also got to visit with my old boss Carolyn Sumners, Star Diva and director of Astronomy and the Burke Baker Planetarium. She ushered me into the Done to catch her latest creation, “2012: Mayan Prophecies” which looked at the origin of the latest apocalyptic predictions based on the end of the Mayan calendar. Is the world going to end in 2012? According to Carolyn’s careful research (vetted by Museum anthropologist Dirk Van Tuerenhout) NO. Good! That was a relief! I allowed myself another glass of wine in celebration.

Carolyn has not changed a whit – endlessly cheerful, funny as hell and totally willing to tell funny stories on herself, which this time included her and I installing the planetarium seating together during the big Dome remodel in 1998. (and NO, I’m not liable if you fell out of your seat last night!)

I take particular pride in the Museum … Before launching my museum career, I put myself through my anthropology degree as a broadcaster and have been a voice over artist for about 25 years (Obviously, I started VERY young;) My voice appears in many of the halls including the video wall of the Welch Chemistry Hall and many of the kiosks in the anthropology hall and Texas Wildlife.

It was a great party, it was great to be home!

–Cecelia Ottenweller, AAM 2011 Public Relations & Marketing Subcommittee member

Take Note of This Man

Daniel Nierman has crossed paths with all 5,000+ attendees at the Annual Meeting. Nierman is an artist, a journalist and an educator. But he had touched everyone at the AAM meeting through his generous gift of the matchbook-sized notebooks included in all registrant tote bags. For the second year in a row, Nierman provided these invaluable items to the meeting gratis.

Nierman’s talents and entrepreneurship go well beyond notepads. He has designed artwork and posters for distribution in schools in his native Mexico for such clients as the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design, Mexican national television, numerous Mexican museums and universities and the government Health ministry, as well as such corporate clients as Apple, IBM and Microsoft. He also created a collection of articulated wooden puppets in the likenesses of figures from famous paintings. This one-of-a-kind collection includes references to works by Bruegal and Chagall, among dozens of others.

Hailing from an artistic Mexican family, Nierman comes by his talent honestly. His father, Leonardo Nierman, is world-renowned. Commissioned works by his father hang in such esteemed venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington and Denver’s Symphony Hall.

Nierman visits the Annual Meeting every year, and plans to be on hand in Minneapolis/St. Paul a year from now, a fact worth noting.

–Dewey Blanton, AAM Director of Strategic Communications

What’s the Best Swag in MuseumExpo?

What’s the Best Swag in MuseumExpo?
This is a serious competition (there are talks of duels and hand-to-hand combat, but we try to discourage that behavior) and actually impossible to judge. So, rather than making a proclamation of who wins, let me just give you some highlights:

Evergreen Exhibitions: Do you heart math? If so, be sure to stop by Booth 422 and pick up a shirt. Just look at how happy it made @museums365.

MRA Experiential Tours & Equipment: Have you seen the giant semi in the left back corner of MuseumExpo? If you haven’t, you need to move in that direction. Inside the semi is a traveling exhibition about the Library of Congress. (They also have stress relief mini truck.)

Head to Booth 1605 and check out exhibit development firm Cinnabar. They have a wonderful wee notebook with a pen and sticky notes.  Definitely a perfect thing for jotting down quick notes during the rest of annual meeting.

Lamcraft is another must-see at Booth 304. They create custom laminated souvenirs for impulse purchases in your gift shop. To demonstrate their products they’ll turn your business card into a luggage tag.

The National Palace Museum, located right in front of the AAM showcase, has a wonderful interactive exhibit, not to mention a beautiful file folder, fan (perfect for the Houston heat), and a fun hat!

What’s been your favorite swag? Share your thoughts here or over on Twitter at #aam2011 or post a comment to this blog.

–Guzel du Chateau, AAM New Media Specialist

Houston Loves Museums!

If you couldn’t tell by now, Houston Loves Museums! A new campaign has been launched as part of Houston’s AAM preparations, to promote Houston’s spectacular and diverse museum community.

There are beautiful banners on signs surrounding the George R. Brown Convention Center with vibrant images from Houston’s museums. Be sure to check them out, when you are out and about and heading over to Discovery Green to partake in the free entertainment and explore the P.O.D.A Project.

 

Our partnership with Yellow Cab Houston means there are Houston Loves Museums placards with more stunning images from museums from all over the city on the backs of cabs as they rove around Houston.  Flag those cabs down and thank them for their support; use them to explore our great city. And, if you ask for a taxi cab receipt, look at the back of that and you’ll likely see a Houston Loves Museums message. Hang on to it as a souvenir!

 

There’s a new website we are working on – houstonlovesmuseums.org – which will be home to a linked list and interactive Google map of the more than 150 museums in the greater Houston area.  Since the site isn’t fully up and running yet (the list is there, but the links aren’t active yet), we wanted to give our AAM friends a sneak peak of the interactive map, so that you can use it while you are museum hopping.

Check out the Houston Loves Museums ad in the Museum Guide that was in your AAM tote bag, and ran in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday. And of course, be sure to check out the Houston Loves Museums Art Car in the Expo Hall before 2 pm on Wednesday.

AAMers: we hope you are able to make it to our museums. We’ve love having you in our city! And let us know what you think about Houston Loves Museums!

Houstonians: Visit your museums! Enjoy the air conditioned cultural hotspots during what is sure to be a hot Houston summer.

–Albert Sanchez, AAM 2011 Annual Meeting Houston Intern

Fab Collab – Queens Museum of Art and Project Row Houses: An On-Site Insight Experience

Project Row Houses has been showing visitors for years how art can impact a neighborhood in a positive way.  And on Sunday, May 22, 50 AAM attendees got a double dose when they had the opportunity to visit and see the work that PRH has been doing for the last 17 years plus hear firsthand about the impressive strides that the Queens Museum of Art (QMA) have made in connecting with their surrounding diverse community. 

The tour began at PRH’s office building where new faces crowded into the cool air-conditioning as Rick Lowe (PRH Founding Director), Tamika Evans (Row House CDC Property Manager), Tom Finkelpearl (QMA Executive Director) and Prerana Reddy (QMA Event Director) welcomed everyone to Project Row Houses.  Rick told the story of PRH, his conversations in 1992 with six other African American artists and how they were working toward using their art to create a positive change within the Third Ward Community.  During a tour of Houston’s worst neighborhoods they discovered the 22 boarded up shotgun houses (c.1933), and inspired by Joseph Beuys’ idea of Social Sculpture and the work of Dr. John Biggers, transformed the houses and created Project Row Houses as we know it today.Everyone stepped out in the Houston sunshine and began walking down the historic oyster-shelled sidewalk along Holman Street, where they meandered in and out of the seven historic shotgun houses which now serve as Artist Project Spaces, currently displaying Round 34: Matter of FOODA few attendees were delighted to see GreenHouse Collective’s aquaponic garden and the chickens located in the back courtyard. 

We turned the corner onto St. Charles, walking by the Young Mothers Residential Program and gazed upon the development of 12 Duplexes where the Row House CDC provides affordable rental units, designed by Rice Building Workshop.  We wandered into the old Delia’s Lounge, which now serves as affordable studio rentals and visited with artists Robert Pruitt, Rabe’a Ballin and Gregory Michael Carter.  As we made our way across Dowling Street, Rick pointed out Flower Man’s House and the Rice Building Workhop’s ZeRow House. The tour ended at the historic Eldorado Ballroom.  Everyone had the opportunity to rest their tired legs and refill on water as Tamika Evans spoke in more depth about the residents living in the Row Houses CDC Duplexes, how they are selected, the interest of a mixed income neighborhood and the expectations for community interaction.The focus shifted as Prerana and Tom presented a PowerPoint of the Queens Museum of Art.    Maps are shown illustrating the melting pot community that surrounds QMA.  We learn through historic images that QMA is located inside the New York City building created to house the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair and that from 1946 to 1950 it housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations.  As the context is set of where QMA is located, Tom and Prerana speak about the various programs their museum has developed and share images depicting the creative ways in which they have successfully connected with their surrounding community.  We learn they have community organizers and art therapists on staff, offering workshops and working out in the neighborhood engaging the diverse residents.  We see the The Panorama of the City of New York, the largest architectural model, built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair and how Damon Rich activated the panorama by displaying housing foreclosures as part of his project Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center.  Additionally, we learned about some of the innovative projects being developed through their programs The Heart of Corona Initiative, Queens Teens and New New Yorkers.   

The presentation ended with PRH’s Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud talking about her project labotanica and then a Q&A followed.  Everyone emerged back into the May warmth making their way, with satisfied expressions upon their face, back onto the bus.  Feedback assures me that, for many, this was an inspiring first day of the conference. 

–Ashley Clemmer Hoffman, Project Row Houses; AAM 2011 On-Site Insight Co-Coordinator

A Wake-Up Call in Two Parts – Monday General Session

 You were warned on this blog earlier – you did not want to miss the entertainment before Monday’s General Session. The Dominic Walsh troop took the stage first, with prime-time dance moves that were beautiful to watch. After being mesmerized by them, the growing crowd was jolted awake by the music and dance of the four-man group HIStory, joined by fellow West Side High School products Inertia Dance Company. Those of you following #aam2011 on Twitter saw the crowd response repeated in cyberspace – they were fabulous.  Very helpful to those of us who had not yet had enough caffeine – you could not watch this and sit still.

Alas, there was business to conduct, so we said good bye to the talented Houstonians and their fabulous moves.  Ford Bell set the stage for the session by stating that museums are not luxuries, they are essential. He then introduced AAM Board Chair Doug Myers, whose duties included thanking those who serve on the board of AAM, and recognizing those concluding this service.

Conference Chair Gwen Goffe came to the podium to introduce Houston’s Mayor, Annise Parker, to give the welcome address. Mayor Parker reflected on her own involvement in arts and culture in Houston, and suggested to the audience that the best way to ensure that political leaders support the arts and culture is to work to elect those that ‘get it’, that way there is no need to lobby them, only to remind them. She then worked a little magic and declared that May 23, 24 and 25, 2011 are officially American Association of Museums day in Houston, a gesture for which she was well-rewarded with enthusiastic applause.

The session then moved to the second wake-up call of the morning, a town-hall style discussion entitled “Tough Economy, Tough Choices”.  Session moderator Carol A. Lewis, PhD, opened the session and introduced the other panelists. Joining Dr. Lewis were Minnette Boesel, Director of Cultural Affairs in the Mayor’s Office; Gwen Goffe, Interim Director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Terry Grier, Ed. D., Superintendent of Houston Independent School District; and United States Senator Jack Reed, who joined by satellite.  The conversation focused on the challenges posed by the economy, and the recurring theme of the remarks made by the panelists was the importance of museum’s to advocate. Dr. Grier talked about the budget challenges affecting the ability of schools to make the field trips that have been a big part of student engagement with museums. He encouraged museums to continue to engage the schools, and to look for new ways to collaborate with their education partners.

The big thought for the day? Museum Advocacy! Moderator Dr. Carol Lewis closed the session and urged everyone to choose to do something to advocate in the next 60 to 90 days, and that sounds like great advice. But I confess – I am still stuck trying to figure out how that young man spun around on his head.

-Jon Iszard, President & CEO, The Health Museum
Co-chair, Public Relations and Marketing Subcommittee
Member, Local Host Committee

Want to come back to Houston, yet?

As many of you may have noticed, Houston is a vibrant, exciting and imaginative place to live and visit. We promise that the weather is really nice October – April. For those who don’t mind the heat and wrinkle reducing humidity, the rest of the year is great, too.

The Houston Local Host Committee was charged with making sure you all learned about all of the wonderful things to see, do and eat in Houston. I think we may have gone overboard. Many of you have commented that you can’t squeeze in all of the things that you want to do and attend the conference.

Want to come back yet? Maybe even you might want to extend your stay? What? Don’t have Memorial Day Weekend plans, yet?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need help editing through all the awesomeness. I am huge fan of lists. Lists created because someone else has done all the fancy footwork for me!

To help you plan your visit, either now or later, there are a ton of great websites listed on right side of the aamhouston.org site hosted by the Greater Houston CVB!  The GHCVB site has tons of maps and features list after list of great ideas of what to do, eat, drink or buy in Houston. Speaking of maps and lists, CultureMap.com covers that and more with interactive mapping that talks to your smart gadgets.  You might also check into 29-95.com, Artshound.com, Do713, Houston Museum District, Fresh Arts Coalition and Spacetaker.org.

One of my favorite sites, because I am the Executive Director of one of the best contemporary arts spaces in Houston, Lawndale Art Center, is Glasstire: Texas Visual Arts Online. This site is a great way to learn about what is on view in galleries and museums in Houston and all around the state, plus features reviews, video interviews and blogs about all things cotemporary visual art in Texas. 

They have been creating some really fun top ten lists lately. And this week they ran one that contains some of my all time favorite things to experience in Houston. Carrie Schneider highlights locals who demonstrate creative reuse “to the max” in The Ten List: Houston Gleaners. Another all-time favorite that they ran was Grover’s Guide to Houston: Part I created by Andrea Grover, the fabulous founder of the Aurora Picture Show.

Take a look. Have fun. And come on back now, y’all hear?

–Christine West, Executive Director of Lawndale Art Center;
Co-chair of the AAM 2011 Hospitality Committee;
member of AAM 2011 Local Host Committee