The Top 10 Things Every Texan Art Lover Needs To Experience

Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas
Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas | © Alizada Studios / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Rachel Nipper
27 February 2019

From museums and art galleries to home tours, graffiti and art festivals, the state of Texas proffers a plethora of interesting, diverse and cultural experiences for any and every art lover. Discover the top 10 art experiences to have in Texas.

Visit the McNay Art Museum

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The McNay Art Museum of San Antonio was founded by a woman named Marion Koogler, a native of Ohio who married Texan Sergeant McNay. When McNay passed away in 1918, Marion moved to San Antonio and, along with her new husband, commissioned the construction of a 24-room Spanish Colonial-Revival home that is now the heart of the McNay Art Museum. When she died in 1950, Marion contributed over 700 pieces of art, her home, and her land to found the first modern art museum in Texas. With over 20,000 pieces of art ranging from nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century American and European paintings and sculptures to art of Medieval and Renaissance times, the McNay Art Museum is a must for any art lover. Be sure to check online for the continuously changing current exhibitions.

Experience the Arts in Marfa

Art Gallery, Shop
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Marfa, Texas, a small town on the Chihuahua desert, is a hotspot for art tourism. Marfa as an art scene began in he 1970s when artist Donald Judd left New York City and obtained an Army base in the small West Texas town. Judd packed the base with art, including his signature, famous boxes. Now, Marfa is home to a large art scene. Find Arber & Sons Editions, a lithograph and woodcuts shop, or the Bismarck Art Gallery, which exhibits contemporary art from around the world. Other stops include the Chinati Foundation, Exhibitions 2D, the Greasewood Gallery, the Inde/Jacobs Gallery and Ballroom Marfa.

Visit the Houston Art and Museum District

A must-do for any art lover in Texas, the Houston Art and Museum District, southwest of the city’s downtown, is a grouping of around 20 cultural organizations and museums that attract almost 9 million visitors a year. The district is home to the country’s sixth largest art museum (the Houston Museum of Fine Arts), the Houston Contemporary Arts Museum, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, the Houston Center for Photography and the Lawndale Art Center. Other components of the district include DiverseWorks (presenting performing, visual and literary art), Rice University’s Rice Gallery and the Menil Collection (exhibiting the works of John and Dominique de Menil).

Contemporary Arts Museum buidling in Houston, Texas | © Alizada Studios / Alamy Stock Photo

Attend the Kerrville Chalk Festival

The Kerrville Chalk Festival showcases local artists and practiced street painters, molding a creative environment for the entire Hill Country community. The festival was shaped out of a desire for a family-oriented occasion that celebrates creativity, culture and community. Chalk art, which began in Italy during the 16th century, can be a long, demanding and meticulous creative process that is truly incredible to observe. At the festival, a large array of artists contributes to large-scale street chalk paintings to be enjoyed along with live music and delicious food.

Attend the Cottonwood Arts Festival

Held every May and October, the Cottonwood Arts Festival in Richardson’s Cottonwood Park has been a major component of the city’s culture for 45 years. Held the first full weekend of the month, the festival boasts over 250 artists – local, national and international – whose exhibitions create an eclectic outdoor gallery. These exhibitions participate in an array of categories, from 2D and 3D mixed media to ceramics, glass, jewelry, photography and sculpture. In addition to the fine art pieces, the festival presents local bands, delicious food and great shopping.

Take in the Rothko Chapel

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Rothko Chapel, Menil Collection, Houston, Texas
Rothko Chapel, Menil Collection, Houston, Texas | © Historic Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
In 1971, John and Dominique de Menil founded the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, with the purpose of creating an intimate space for persons of every belief system to find sanctuary. With over 60,000 visitors a year, the Rothko Chapel’s interior proves to be a significant work of modern art. The building is octagonal in shape and displays 14 Mark Rothko paintings inside. On the court, view, Broken Obelisk, a sculpture created by Barnett Newman in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

View Old Historic Art in the Texas Capitol

Building, Museum, University
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State Capitol Building, Austin, Texas, USA
State Capitol Building, Austin, Texas, USA | © Stephen Saks Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Texas’ state capitol in Austin houses almost 300 paintings, over 150 pieces of art on paper, almost 30 sculptures and over 15 monuments on its surrounding acres. The capitol building itself, both on the inside and the exterior, also proves a work of art and a thing of beauty. In addition to the artistic appeal of the capitol’s art pieces, these works aid in the formation of the story of the Lone Star State, its people and its land. On the first floor, one will find William Henry Huddle’s The Surrender of Santa Anna and David Crockett as well as statues of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. There are also many portraits (Lyndon B. Johnson, Barbara Jordan), battlescene paintings (Battle of San Jacinto, Dawn at the Alamo) and landscape paintings (Ranger Escort West of the Pecos, Fording the Pecos River).

Visit the 500X Gallery

Art Gallery, Park
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The 500X Gallery located near Deep Ellum, Dallas, is one of the oldest artist-run galleries in Texas and houses the work of many budding Dallas artists. The bohemian-eqsue gallery finds home in a historic 1915 tire factory and air-conditioning warehouse. 500X has proved to be an important entry point for up-and-coming artists in the Dallas/Fort Worth art scene. The eclectic gallery proves an excellent place for a different type of art experience as one observes pieces of art whose creators were not limited by dealer restrictions.

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