Photo: Pin Lim
Houston is a town where summer punishes and winter forgives. As a result, the winter months in Houston provide an extra opportunity to celebrate the season in special ways that express our diversity, our internationalism and our local heritage.
In response to this phenomena, Houston Arts Alliance’s Folklife + Traditional Arts program presented Winter Celebrations, a trio of installations, along with live performances and interactive events centered on the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Lunar New Year and the African-American trail riders who help kick off the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
These distinctive traditions share more than a season — they are all public, participatory, festive events involving parade-like processional activities, music and dance, and fancy garb or costume.
All events were free and open to the public at Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH), 3400 Main Street.
Observing the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH), 3400 Main Street
December 2 - 8, 2015
Opening reception: December 3, 2015
The Virgin of Guadalupe (Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe) is the single most significant Catholic holy personage associated strictly with the Americas. Appearing to the peasant Juan Diego on a hillside outside Mexico City almost 500 years ago, she asked as the “true Mother of God” that a church be built in her honor on that very site. The celebration of the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is a powerful religious and cultural event in the Mexican and Mexican American Catholic community. She is the object of popular devotion but also a cultural symbol.
This exhibition explores the artistic and cultural traditions that surround it on all sides -- the music, dance, food, drink, special garments, altar building and storytelling. Every year on the Sunday closest to her feast day, the Guadalupana Association of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese organizes a procession as a sacred tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe involving scores of devotional dance groups known as matachines, danzantes and chinelos.
As is often the case with folk arts such as these, aesthetic traditions are embedded in community and cultural practice. Their beauty resides in the resourcefulness and collectivity they express and in the time invested to demonstrate devotion to the Virgin. They are seen as gifts to her in return for the gifts she has shared with all humankind.
Bank of America was the lead presenting sponsor for the entire Winter Celebrations series and the free Family Day held on January 18, 2016. Additional support was provided by Sara and Bill Morgan, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Houston Endowment.
Exploring Lunar New Year
Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH), 3400 Main Street
Wednesday - Tuesday, January 13 - 19, 2016
Opening reception: January 14, 2016
The Lunar New Year celebration that is most popular in Houston is grounded in the Chinese calendar and is observed by the many nationalities with strong cultural ties to China. In Houston that is mostly the Chinese and Vietnamese communities. Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the single most festive and important holiday in these communities and its commemoration involves weeks of preparation. Customs vary from community to community and in Houston they come together in new ways but the entire event heralds new beginnings and signals relief from the travails of the old year.
Crowds assemble at temples and community events to enjoy performances of the lion and dragon dances, fireworks and offerings. These activities are common in Southeast Asian communities in Houston and worldwide and represent happiness and auspiciousness in general. However, they are especially associated with bringing in the new year by chasing out bad omens from the past and clearing the way for new beginnings.
Each year is demarcated by its special Chinese zodiac sign. In the midst of this, families gather to experience the clamor of bells, the commotion of congregants, the whisper of prayer, the smell and smoke of incense in the air. Displays are mounted in homes, businesses and religious institutions throughout the city in a spirit of renewal and regeneration. Elaborate arrangements of fruit and other items such as candles, incense, bamboo and flowers are placed as offerings and signs of respect to ancestors and deities. Their artful arrangement signifies abundance, esteem and generosity.
Bank of America was the lead presenting sponsor for the entire Winter Celebrations series and the free Family Day held on January 18, 2016. Additional support was provided by Sara and Bill Morgan, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Houston Endowment. Special thanks to the Chinese Community Center.
Honoring Houston’s African-American Trail Riders
Wednesday - Tuesday, February 10 - 16, 2016
Opening reception: February 11, 2016
The Texas Gulf Coast is home to a rich, black cowboying tradition. The counties that surround Harris —especially Waller, Fort Bend, Brazoria and those further south along the Coastal Bend — are still home to a thriving ranch community. African-American cowboys helped build that culture and economy, and it is this legacy that spurred the creation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s black trail ride associations.
All of the trail ride associations come out in greatest force, perhaps, in the days leading up to the Rodeo. And while the Rodeo is usually the one event where most Houstonians see the trail riders, these clubs and associations are active year round. Some of their events draw thousands of people. Camping, riding, socializing, celebrating with music and food create bonds among family and friends that are usually forged for life and over generations.
Ranching, rodeoing and trail riding are cousins. Rodeos are often staged at trail ride events, and riders support them with enthusiastic attendance. Like all rodeos, African-American ones draw on and honor the tasks and techniques central to ranching practice, and ranching families involved in all of these have been central to passing on these traditions.
The primary focus of the exhibition Honoring Houston’s African-American Trail Riders was the Southwestern Trial Ride. This group begins its ride, as most groups do, by hosting a huge celebration, frequently featuring zydeco, hip hop or country music. Over the last 20 years, the music and its lyrics have begun to consciously embrace the trail riding ethos, lending a signature sound to the black trail tradition.
Bank of America was the lead presenting sponsor for the entire Winter Celebrations series and the free Family Day held on January 18, 2016. Additional support was provided by Sara and Bill Morgan, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Houston Endowment. Special thanks to the