Mitchell Center Events Focus on Sustainability

The University of Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts is presenting a spring season of arts events that link environmental concerns, the oil industry and Houston’s own distinctive landscape.

Two interlocking projects highlight the Mitchell Center’s spring season: the world premiere of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) exhibition “Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry” at UH’s Blaffer Gallery and “Systems of Sustainability: Art, Innovation, Action,” a three-day festival/symposium focused on sustainability and the arts. A series of related programs include a “Junkyard Drive-In” movie theater on the bayou featuring oil-themed films, guided tours of Houston’s waterways and the unveiling of a newly commissioned site-specific artwork by design collective SIMPARCH.

“The Mitchell Center’s spring season explores how artists and works of art can help us look at today’s pressing issues in new light,” said Karen Farber, director of the Mitchell Center. “The CLUI exhibition and the projects featured in the symposium are deeply collaborative. At first glance, they may not even be recognizable as art objects but, ultimately, they will ignite dialogue and inspire action.”

The schedule of spring events is as follows:

  • Jan. 17 - March 29 – “Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry” in Blaffer Gallery
    Co-presented by Blaffer Gallery, this world premiere exhibition by the Center for Land Use Interpretation explores the impact of the oil industry on Texas’ terrains through photos, maps, video and text. CLUI served as the Mitchell Center’s artist in residence during 2008. Visiting more than 50 sites around the state, CLUI researchers collected data and captured images of refineries, oil fields, wells and other petroleum-related facilities. Setting up a temporary headquarters in a junkyard along Buffalo Bayou, CLUI surveyed this vital waterway within the city and its relationship with the Ship Channel. Their experiences have also been documented in “On the Banks of Bayou City: The Center for Land Use Interpretation in Houston,” a new book co-published by the Mitchell Center and Blaffer.

  • Feb. 28, 6 p.m. – Junkyard Drive-In and Artist Talk at Allen’s Landing
    Co-presented by the Mitchell Center and the Aurora Picture Show, this outdoor film screening will take place at CLUI’s field office site at a former junkyard on Allen’s Landing. Audiences will view films that feature oil as a central plot point from their vehicles or in outdoor seating, and Matt Coolidge of CLUI will give an artist talk prior to the screening.

  • Feb 28 and March 1, 10 a.m.-noon, – CLUI guided boat excursions. $25 per person
    Join members of the CLUI as they observe and highlight the curiosities of the Buffalo Bayou.

  • March 21, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., – Downstream: A Center for Land Use Interpretation Tour of Houston's Water and Oil. $75 per person (includes lunch)
    Board a chartered pontoon boat and depart from Allen’s Landing for a daylong tour of Houston’s Buffalo Bayou. Matt Coolidge of CLUI will lead the tour, heading downstream to observe sites of industry (recycling facilities, concrete plants) and the city’s sewer outfall. Ultimately, the tour will venture toward the Ship Channel and conclude near the San Jacinto Monument in LaPorte. From there, guests will return to the point of departure on a bus tour of the area’s petrochemical landscapes

  • March 27 – 29 – Systems of Sustainability: Art, Innovation, Action (S.O.S.) Symposium and Arts Festival. $35 registration fee, student discount available
    Special addresses by Mayor Bill White and UH President Renu Khator. Organized by the Mitchell Center and Blaffer Gallery, this three-day symposium will explore how creative enterprise can be an integral tool for cultural growth and social change. The program will present a range of innovative practices demonstrated by a roster of local, national and international participants including prominent artists, scientists, business leaders, activists and scholars. Events will include site-specific projects, participatory activities, lectures, scholarly panels and many opportunities for dialogue. Participants include Amy Balkin, Alexandra Broches and Barbara Pugh of Hera Gallery, Center for Land Use Interpretation, B. D. Collier, Lisa D'Amour, Fritz Haeg, Bob Harriss, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Liz Lerman, Richard Lerman, Michael Mercil, Kurt Mueller, Katie Pearl, Dario Robleto, Stephanie Smith, Lindsay Utz of GOOD Magazine, Liz Ward and Matthew Wettergreen of Caroline Collective, Wochenklauser and others.

  • March 26, 7 p.m. - Kick-off party with electronic musician Steve Nalepa
    Join the Mitchell Center and symposium participants for an evening of music, food, and a sneak peek of the weekend’s events.

  • Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m. – Blue Lias, or The Fish Lizard’s Whore
    Jose Quintero Lab Theatre. Free Admission In recognition of the 2009 Darwinian anniversary, the Mitchell Center co-presents a solo play about fossilist Mary Anning. Written and performed by Claudia Stevens with music composed by Allen Shearer. The performance is supported by UH, the UH Office of the Associate Vice President for University Relations, the College of Natural Science and Mathematics, the department of biology and biochemistry, the School of Theatre and Dance, the Women’s Studies Program, Friends of Women’s Studies and the Mitchell Center.

  • For additional details on these events or updates, visit or call 713-743-5548.

    About the Mitchell Center
    The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston cultivates interdisciplinary collaboration in the performing, visual, and literary arts. From its base at the University of Houston, the center offers public events, residencies, and curriculum that fuse artistic disciplines, ignite dialogue, and open doors to new ways of seeing and understanding the arts and the world around us. The Mitchell Center forms an alliance among five units at the University of Houston: The School of Art, Creative Writing Program, Moores School of Music, School of Theatre and Dance, and Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston. For more information about the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston, visit

    About the University of Houston
    The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.