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Culture of Houston

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Culture of Houston

Houston is a multicultural city with a thriving international community supported by the third largest concentration of consular offices in the United States, representing 86 nations.[1] Officially, Houston is nicknamed the "Space City" as it is home to NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, where Mission Control Center is located. "Houston" was the first word spoken on the moon.[2] Many locals refer to Houston as "Bayou City." Other nicknames include "H-Town", "Clutch City", and "Magnolia City".[3]

About 90 languages are regularly spoken in the Houston area.[4] Some neighborhoods with high populations of Vietnamese and Chinese residents have Chinese and Vietnamese street signs in addition to English ones. Houston has two Chinatowns—the original located in East Downtown and the other along Bellaire Boulevard in the southwest area of the city. The city also has a Little Saigon in Midtown and Vietnamese businesses located in the southwest Houston Chinatown.

There are many popular events held in the city celebrating cultures of Houstonians. The largest is the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that is held over 20 days from late February through early March. The event begins with trail rides that originate from several points throughout the state, all of which convene at Reliant Park for a barbecue cook-off. The rodeo includes typical rodeo events, as well as concert performances from major artists and carnival rides. Another large celebration is the annual Gay Pride Parade held at the end of June to commemorate the struggle for gay liberation, gay rights, gay pride, and the Stonewall riots of the late 1960s in New York City. The event is held in Downtown Houston (2015 and beyond) - prior to 2014 the parade was held along Westheimer Road within Neartown—home to many gay establishments, such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and coffeehouses. Other events held annually include the Houston Greek Festival and Houston International Festival.

Anna Rohleder of Forbes said "Among Houston's wealthy denizens, social life centers on charity events and the arts."[5]


  • Arts and theatre 1
  • Tourism and recreation 2
  • Sports 3
  • Media 4
  • Car culture 5
  • Music 6
    • Classical 6.1
    • Pop 6.2
    • Blues 6.3
    • Tejano 6.4
    • Hip-Hop 6.5
  • Literature 7
  • Cuisine 8
  • Corporate involvement in culture 9
  • Religion 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

Arts and theatre

Houston's folk art such as Art Cars.[8] Houston is widely recognized as an important city for contemporary visual arts. The city is a stop for touring companies from Broadway, concerts, shows, and exhibitions for a variety of interests, ranging from the nation's largest quilting show to auto, boat, home, and gun shows.

Houston's theatre scene is far larger than the Theatre District, with more than 30 professional, regional, and community theatre companies producing full seasons of theatrical productions. Notable theaters include The Ensemble Theatre, which gives voice to the African-American community and Talento Bilingüe de Houston, which spotlights playwrights and actors who express the Latino experience in America. Other significant theatres include Main Street Theater, with its broad spectrum of classical and contemporary classics, and the quirky Theatre Suburbia, which has developed a reputation in the Houston arts community for showcasing local playwrights emphasizing a peculiarly Texas perspective. Current information about these theatre companies, venues and performances is available through the Houston Arts Alliance web site.

Adjacent to the Texas Medical Center is the Museum District, which is home to most of the city's major museums: the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Cullen Sculpture Garden, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Children's Museum of Houston, Lawndale Art Center, the Houston Zoo, the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science, and The Menil Collection. Approximately 4 million people visit institutions in the Museum District every year.

Houston has an international flavor and is home to several multicultural arts organizations including: MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts), Kuumba House Dance Theatre, and Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say.

Tourism and recreation

Cockrell Butterfly Area, Houston Museum of Natural Science

Space Center Houston is the official visitors’ center of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Space Center Houston includes many interactive exhibits—including moon rocks and a shuttle simulator—in addition to special presentations that tell the story of NASA's manned space flight program.

The Theater District, a 17-block area in the heart of downtown Houston, is home to Bayou Place Entertainment Complex, restaurants, movies, plazas, and parks. Bayou Place is a large multilevel building that is home to restaurants, bars, live music, billiards, theatres, and art house films. The Houston Verizon Wireless Theatre stages a variety of live concerts and the Angelika Theatre presents the latest in art, foreign, and independent films.

Houston is home to many parks including Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, home of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. The Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall have been replaced by the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

Other tourist attractions include the Galleria, Texas' largest shopping mall located in the Uptown District; Old Market Square; Tranquility Park; and Sam Houston Historical Park, which contains restored homes (built between 1824 and 1868) and reconstructed buildings. The San Jacinto Battlefield is in the nearby city of Deer Park.


Houston hosted Super Bowl VIII in 1974 and Super Bowl XXXVIII 30 years later in 2004, the 1989 NBA All-Star Game, the 1981, 1986, 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals (The hometown Houston Rockets winning the latter 2), 2004 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, 2005 World Series, the 2005 Big 12 Conference championship game, the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, and the Tennis Masters Cup in 2003 and 2004, and the annual Shell Houston Open. The city hosts the NCAA College Baseball Minute Maid Classic every February. Houston formerly hosted the NCAA football's Houston Bowl in December, but now hosts the Texas Bowl in January.

Houston has a franchise in nearly every major professional sports league including: Houston Dynamo (MLS), Houston Astros (MLB), Houston Rockets (NBA), Houston Comets (Now Defunct)(WNBA), Houston Aeros (Now Defunct) (AHL), Houston Texans (NFL), and Houston Dash (National Women's Soccer League).

In early 2006, the Champ Car auto racing series returned to Houston for a yearly race, held on the streets of the Reliant Park complex. The city had previously been home to a Champ Car round from 1998 to 2001.

Minute Maid Park (home of the Astros), BBVA Compass Stadium (home of the Dynamo) and Toyota Center (home of the Rockets) are located downtown. The city has the first domed stadium in the United States, the Astrodome, and also holds the NFL's first retractable roof stadium—Reliant Stadium. Other sports facilities in Houston are Hofheinz Pavilion, Reliant Astrodome, Robertson Stadium, and Rice Stadium. The now infrequently used Reliant Astrodome hosted World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania X-Seven on April 1, 2001.[9]

Houston has not had very much success when it comes to its sports teams, at least not lately. Its only successful team was the Houston Rockets, who won 2 consecutive championships from 1994-95. The Houston Oilers won 2 back-to-back AFL championships in 1960 and 1961, but never competed in the Super Bowl since the NFL-AFL merger. The Astros have one World Series appearance in 2005.

The following professional sports venues are located in Houston.

Club League Sport Venue Built Capacity
Houston Texans NFL Football Reliant Stadium 2002 71,054
Houston Astros MLB Baseball Minute Maid Park 2000 42,060
Houston Dynamo MLS Soccer BBVA Compass Stadium 2012 22,039
Houston Rockets NBA Basketball Toyota Center 2003 18,023


Houston Press headquarters in Downtown Houston

The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area is served by a public television station and two public radio stations. KUHT (HoustonPBS) is a PBS member station and the first public television station in the United States. Houston Public Radio is listener-supported radio with two NPR member stations: KUHF (KUHF News) and KUHA (Classical 91.7). KUHF is news/talk radio and KUHA is a classical music station. The University of Houston System owns and holds broadcasting licenses to KUHT, KUHF, and KUHA. The stations broadcast from the Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting, located on the campus of the University of Houston.

Houston is served by the Houston Chronicle, its only major daily newspaper with wide distribution. The Hearst Corporation, which owns and operates The Houston Chronicle, bought the assets of the Houston Post—its long-time rival and main competition—when it ceased operations in 1995. The only other major publication to serve the city is the Houston Press, a free alternative weekly with a circulation of more than 300,000 readers.

KTRK's Marvin Zindler was the most recognized television journalist in Houston and Texas. His week-long expose on the Chicken Ranch brothel became the basis for the Broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and his consumer and health reports on local restaurants have made the phrase "slime in the ice machine" immediately recognizable to any local.

Dan Rather, Linda Ellerbee, and Jessica Savitch.

KXLN Houston's Spanish language Univision and its "En Su Defensa" (in your defense) segments have garnered regional acclaim, and "En Su Defensa" month was proclaimed by Mayor Bill White in 2004. Led by Investigative reporter Patricio Espinoza, the segment generated strong community following and historic ratings along with several Emmy awards through 2005.

Houston Not-For-Profit News is a subsidiary of World Internet News Cooperative. It is one of Houston's few non-profit news sources which receives no money from advertising. It totes itself as being unbiased with the ability to be more objective than the commercial news media due to the fact that it is not tied to advertisers. Stories covered by the cooperative range from consumer rights, to corporate welfare, to working-class issues. Their work has also been nominated for a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial journalism award.

Car culture

Automobiles of all kinds have had enormous influence on Houston culture, largely a result of the urban sprawl and sparse public transportation that has followed the dismantling of the city's former trolley system. Many of the Houston's business districts, such as Uptown and Greenspoint began their development as edge cities. Furthermore, many notable neighborhoods began as streetcar suburbs, including the Heights and Sharpstown.

Car culture is often celebrated by residents, especially during the annual Art Car Parade where many uniquely modified cars are paraded through the Heights neighborhood. Another car culture celebrated in Houston is the slab culture,[10] usually found in Houston's inner city neighborhoods (including former Houston-area suburban communities, e.g., South Park, Sunnyside, Acres Homes, and enclaves in Missouri City). The cars used for slabs are usually restored and/or customized full-size GM vehicles (Cadillac Fleetwood, Eldorado, Buick, or a restored Oldsmobile, e.g., Cutlass, Delta 88). The slab culture is associated with Houston hip-hop musicians.[10]

In recent years Houston's love affair with the car has cooled somewhat, with car usage falling by 15.2% since 1995 and heavy investment in public transport, including a light rail system opened in 2004, effectively signalling the return of the streetcar.


Houston has a lively music scene and while it can claim no broad genre as its own, it has been fertile ground for the development of niche styles in American blues and Latin music --- a tradition that continues today with a uniquely distinctive regional style emerging in Houston's rap music community.


Houston's reputation as a mature center for classical music is the product of more than a century of dedication and community support. The Houston Symphony (founded in 1913), is the largest and best-known of the city's professional orchestras, but they are hardly the only option. Other significant orchestras include Mercury Houston and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, as well as outstanding academic orchestras at the Rice University Shepherd School of Music and the University of Houston Moores School of Music (home to the 800-seat Moores Opera House).

A full season of operas is performed in the downtown Theatre District by Houston Grand Opera,[11] while a smaller community-based opera company (Opera in the Heights) performs in Lambert Hall. Operas are also performed each spring and fall at both the Shepherd School of Music and the Moores School of Music. Houston Grand Opera performs at least one free show each summer at the Miller Outdoor Theatre.


As long as there's been popular music in America, there have been musicians who grew and developed in Houston contributing their own brand to the American cultural milieu. Pop icons from Houston include R&B singer Beyoncé, rockers ZZ Top, country legend Kenny Rogers, blues master Lightnin' Hopkins, tejano superstar Selena and the folksy country songwriter Lyle Lovett, among hundreds of others.


Blues music developed throughout the southern United States where several areas developed distinctive regional sounds. Houston's distinctive sound grew in the 1920 with early influencers like Lightnin' Hopkins and T-Bone Walker.[12] The sound matured over the next 50 years, during which it became known as Texas blues. The style would gain international notoriety in the modern era when it was adopted by popular regional rockers Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top, among others.[12][13][14]


Tejano is perhaps the most misunderstood of popular Houston musical styles because it is often classified as a style of Latin music, although the word "tejano" means Texan, reflecting the genre's roots in southern and central Texas during the 19th century. Modern La Mafia, but which was thrust into a national and international spotlight by young female performer Selena. Selena's younger brother, A.B. Quintanilla, through his band Kumbia Kings would further push the Houston style of tejano even further by fusing it with hip-hop to create songs that appealed to a younger, more urban audience.[15][16]


Ben Westhoff, author of Dirty South: Outkast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers who Reinvented Hip-Hop, said that Houston is geographically isolated from other cities that have rap music traditions, so Houston rap music has its own slang and sound which does not "translate" in other regions. Many DJs like to severely slow down music and repeat lines several times, a style known as "screwed and chopped." The originator of "Screwed and Chopped" style music was the late Dj Screw. Screw began making this type of music while under the influence of promethazine with codeine cough syrup, the drinking of which is now heavily popularuzed in hip-hop culture. Westhoff says that the style, which slurs the speeches of the rappers, gives the music an "extraterrestrial quality."[17]


The Ladies Reading Group of Houston was a significant founder of the public library system in Houston. Elizabeth Long, the author of the 2003 book Book Clubs: Women and the Uses of Reading in Everyday Life, wrote that Houston's "literary scene" contributes and draws upon the overall literary culture of Texas.[18] The University of Houston creative writing program opened in 1979. Long wrote that this program "has achieved a national reputation" in subsequent decades.[18] In 1985 the Ladies Reading Club had a 100th anniversary celebration.[18]


Ninfa's, a new style Tex-Mex restaurant

By 2005 USA Today referred to Houston as "the dining-out capital of the nation." Houstonians ate out at restaurants more often than residents of other American cities, and Houston restaurants have the second lowest average prices of restaurants of major cities.[19] Tex-Mex cuisine is very popular in Houston. Many Mexican cuisine restaurants in Houston have aspects that originate from Texas culture.[20]

Corporate involvement in culture

Members of the oil and gas industry are representatives of most of the boards of Houston's arts bodies, charities, and museums. The energy companies spent funds in order to make Houston a more attractive community for their employees to live in.[21]


Houston includes Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and other religious groups.

See also


  1. ^ [4]
  2. ^ [5]
  3. ^ [6]
  4. ^ Houston Facts. City of Houston
  5. ^ Rohleder, Anna. "Finest Places Houston." Forbes. 2006. Retrieved on October 17, 2012.
  6. ^ About Houston Theater District. Houston Theater District
  7. ^ Houston: Have a Blast. Travel Guide
  8. ^ Art Car Museum - Houston, TX, 77007 - Citysearch
  9. ^ WWE: TV Shows > WrestleMania XXIV > History > WrestleMania XVII
  10. ^ a b Slabs are hip-hop on wheels, Houston Chronicle, January 7, 2013
  11. ^ Robert I. Giesberg; Carl Cunningham; Alan Rich (2005), Houston Grand Opera at Fifty, Herring Press, p. 83, ISBN 0-917001-24-9
  12. ^ a b V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra, S. T. Erlewine, All music guide to the blues: the definitive guide to the blues (Backbeat Books, 3rd edn., 2003), pp. 694-5.
  13. ^ Wood, Roger and James Fraher, Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues, University of Texas Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0292791596.
  14. ^ Govenar, Alan, Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound, Texas A&M University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1585446056.
  15. ^ Pena, Manuel, Musica Tejana, Texas A&M University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0890968888.
  16. ^ Burr, Ramiro, Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music, Billboard Books, 1999, ISBN 978-0823076918.
  17. ^ Westhoff, Ben. Dirty South: Outkast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers who Reinvented Hip-Hop. Chicago Review Press, 2011. 61.
  18. ^ a b c Long, Elizabeth. Book Clubs: Women and the Uses of Reading in Everyday Life. University of Chicago Press, August 1, 2003. ISBN 0226492621, 9780226492629. p. 76.
  19. ^ Gattis, Tory. "Why does Houston have such a great restaurant scene?" Houston Chronicle (originally posted in the "Houston Strategies" blog). Thursday, June 02, 2005. Re-posted in the Houston Chronicle on July 9, 2010. Retrieved on July 11, 2010.
  20. ^ Walsh, Robb. "The Authenticity Myth." Houston Press. October 26, 2000. Retrieved on November 16, 2009.
  21. ^ McNulty, Sheila. "Houston: where energy is king." Financial Times. March 25, 2010. Retrieved on March 31, 2010.

Further reading

  • Hoffman, Ken. "Condé Nast Traveler insults Houston cuisine." Houston Chronicle. April 2, 2014.
  • Halverson, Megan. "Swangin' and Bangin' ... and getting to that other level with the disciples of screw." Houston Press. Thursday February 7, 1997.

External links

  • The Italian Cultural and Community Center in Houston
  • Opera in the Heights
  • Asian Focus - Houston Chronicle
  • Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
  • Raindrop Turkish House, Houston
  • Dominic Walsh Dance Theater
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