Houston is Known for….Art and Culture?

Tourists visiting Houston go to the zoo and the Galleria and….
Well at least as Houstonians we know that we can either go outside and melt the day away or go to….

If you’re having trouble finishing these sentences, apparently you’re not alone.  Although the arts (operas, ballets, symphonies, theatres, and museums) bring in about $869 million dollars a year, Houston isn’t known as the “arts capitol of the country” and maybe not even of the state.  Furthermore, the arts in Houston bring about “about 20,000 jobs and $97 million in revenue for local and state government.”   Still somehow Houston is known as a business destination.

With such high numbers, obviously people are participating in the arts, but it seems likely that we as a city aren’t capitalizing on this significant money maker.  Rice University Kinder Institute conducted a great study about the arts in Houston.  Interestingly 56% of those surveyed said that they would rather have the arts than sports in the city, yet it seems like sports are publicized far more than arts.

Here are some of the best places to take tourists in Houston according to different sites:
Houston Chronicle – Kemah Boardwalk. Note: Kemah isn’t in Houston
Yelp – Spec’s Liquor Warehouse

Then you have TripAdvisor and Yahoo Travel with arts/museums as their top places listed; but as you can see, it’s kind of all over the place, which can cause confusion for travelers.  The website www.10best.com lists Theatre and Arts as the 5th (out of 6) thing that Houston is known for after diversity (?), space and science, shopping, and sports.  Last on the list: restaurants.  Finally, when you do a Yahoo search for “things to do in Houston, Texas” one of the related searches that is shown at the bottom of the page is “Kemah Boardwalk.”  Again, Kemah is not Houston!!

So how can Houston capitalize on its apparently booming art industry?  One idea might be to expand on the types of art that Houstonians and visitors want.  In the Kinder survey, page 11 shows that 30.9% of those surveyed listen to Rock, pop, hip-hop, or rap music, whereas only .8% listen to opera.  I was about to suggest a Houston hip-hop festival, but after doing a search, I discovered that there already is one.

This brings me to my next suggestion: use social media to get the word out!  According to the study, 38.5% of people get information about art events from radio and television whereas 18.7% receive it from the Internet and smartphones (the survey then says that 3.9% receive it from social media…. You can probably add that to the category of “Internet.”)  The average age of those attending arts events is older, but surely newer ways of advertising will increase chances of more people attending the event.

Finally, Houston needs rebranding.  Las Vegas did it in the 90s when they tried to make it more family friendly.  New York did it in the 70s with “I love New York.” This is where city council and the mayor should step in.  While I don’t believe the government should be responsible for much outside of safety and infrastructure, I do believe in the government stepping in on tourism.  We won’t have money for safety and infrastructure if we don’t have people coming here and spending money.  While I’m not suggesting that we spend a ton of money on this, I am suggesting that we rethink how we spend the funds.  It is time to promote Houston as the city that it truly is.

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One Response to Houston is Known for….Art and Culture?

  1. evan7257 says:

    Agree, but two points.
    1. How would tourists get around or know where to go. Cars are basically necessary, and lots of the best places aren’t exactly big and advertised. In personal experience, Houston is great for tourists if they have friends or family already here to show them some of their favorite places (bars, restaurants, museums, parks) that may be not so obvious.
    2. Houston has had some pretty big and successful music events (Free Press Summerfest) that draw large crowds from out of town. But we are also notoriously bad when it comes to your average sort of shows, and it makes artists want to avoid our town. The noise ordinance and talkative crowds are turnoffs for the music industry. There should be leadership from the top to make our city more music friendly.

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