This Sunday, I woke up early and joined 30 something odd runners at the downtown Houston Public Library for an art tour around the city. Over the course of two hours, we ran five miles and paused at over 20 pieces of art to hear their history and see how they weathered the Harvey floods.
This run was the 12th Annual event organized by the Houston Area Road Runners Association (HARRA), a non-profit dedicated to runners in the Houston Area. Lee Greb and Roger Boak coordinated the run and led the free tour! Given how much I love art and exploring my favorite city, this was an exceptionally delightful way to pass the morning. Here are some things I learned on the run:
1. Geometric Mouse X (1971) was the first stop (and my favorite piece) on the tour. Located next to the Houston Public Library on Bagby Street, it is inspired by Mickey Mouse. The artist Claes Oldenburg once said “the mouse is a state of mind.” How whimsical and lovely right?
2. Seven Wonders (1998) located behind the theatre district on Buffalo Bayou are giant towers of silver metal carvings that depict a bunch of pictures made by children that represent the seven major industries of Houston (medicine, energy, manufacturing, transportation, etc.).
3. The Big Bubble (1998) which is one of my Buffalo Bayou secrets is currently out of commission because of the flood.
4. Points of View (1991) is located in the middle of Market Square and was created by UH Professor James Surls.
6. Personage with Birds (1970/1982) outside the Chase building is one of Houston’s most prestigious works of public art–and also the most massive! It kinda reminds me of the Flamingo in Chicago. The artist Joan Miro has some additional pieces of work in the Sky Deck, which ugh I believe still closed to the public, but someday I’ll see them!
8. Open Channel Flow (2009) is the epitome of art imitating life. It mimics the Houston Public Works water pipes on Buffalo Bayou Park and sprays water on unsuspecting passersby who dare pump the handle. It was broken when we went by (darn flood water), but I CAN’T WAIT to return and try it out myself in the coming weeks!
10. The Houston Police Officers Memorial (1990) is open to the public–you’re welcome to climb all over it. Stairs exist so you can get to the top exactly for that purpose! It consists of 5 identical pyramids. One is stacked above ground and four are inverted into the ground.
Bonus: Buffalo Bayou is crazy right now! the topography has completely changed because of the flood water and insane water levels. There are huge piles of sand everywhere and it feels like you’re in the Wild West or the moon or a beach. In some spots the sand has been shoveled to the side and it towers above your head along the path. It reminds me of a snow plow clearing streets, but instead of snow, its sand! Definitely worth checking out how nature has changed the area.
On your next run around the bayou or stroll through downtown Houston, I encourage you to pause and look at all the lovely art decorating our city! Also, the more I dive into the Houston running community, the more I’m falling in love with the HARRA organization. They coordinated a bunch of super cool trail runs as part of their Tour de Bayou series back in April, and if my sources are correct should be gearing up for another round this October. Definitely follow them on Facebook to stay in the know!