Why does Houston have so much free outdoor art that you can enjoy at time of the year, but especially on New Year's Day? Well, Houston’s percent for art ordinance was established 10 years ago, on Dec. 21, 1999, and is recognized as one of the great civic steps toward transforming Houston into a vibrant metropolis, where public art is an intrinsic part of the urban fabric. By designating a small amount, 1.75 percent, to be set aside from certain city buildings’ construction budgets to commission and maintain public art, Houston has, within the past decade, added compelling and beautiful pieces of public art to its collection to be enjoyed by Houstonians and visitors in our neighborhood parks and libraries, as well as at our airports and major public facilities. So, start off your resolution to exercise more by getting outdoors and exploring the art, first along Buffalo Bayou!
Houston is home to artworks by some of the country’s most important artists of the 20th century. However, many of the most visible artworks are by Houston’s own artists, including the timeless flora and fauna mosaic by Dixie Friend Gay and The Art Guys’ glowing suitcase installation, both at Bush Intercontinental Airport; and Mel Chin’s Seven Wonders, adjacent to the Wortham Theater Center, on which more than 1,000 Houston schoolchildren collaborated. We can be particularly proud of Bert Long Jr.’s epic mural at Looscan Library that celebrates 17 masterpieces from world history — artworks he studied at Houston libraries in his early days as a self-taught artist.
Each of these artworks is wholly unique to our city and mirrors our diverse cultures, histories and principles. However, because art is subjective, each piece will not appeal to everyone and can be initially at the center of civic debate. So, get outdoors and check out these pieces, especially those along Buffalo Bayou!