Sugar Land now has a branch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science and is building a major new performing arts center. Kingwood has the Kingwood Pops Orchestra, and Cypress is celebrating the inaugural season of the Cypress Symphony. When it comes to theater, Conroe has the Crighton Players and Clear Lake the Clear Creek Community Theatre. But in The Woodlands, cultural offerings still pretty much begin and end with The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
For George Mitchell, the founder of The Woodlands, a world-class performing arts center was part of his original vision. It wasn’t until 1990 that the open-air amphitheater (named after Mitchell’s wife, a passionate arts patron) debuted with a gala program featuring Frank Sinatra, Alabama, and Clint Black. Since then it has hosted 65 events or so each year between March and November, including such marquee names as Tina Turner, Elton John, and Britney Spears, as well as performances by the Houston Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera—in 1992, the Pavilion became the official summer home of The Houston Symphony.
But what about the months between November and March, normally the busiest for arts organizations? Of the 100 people who responded to Houstonia’s survey, almost a third said they wished The Woodlands could import some of Houston’s museums and galleries, and 11 percent said they missed its theater scene. Yes, there are around 50 public works of art strewn around the community, but even the most diehard Woodlands partisans must get tired of looking at “Spammy”—a bronze pig in a wheelbarrow—and “Treasures from Grandma’s Purse.” A reprieve comes two days every April, when the city hosts the Woodlands Waterway Festival, a juried art fair that attracts hundreds of artists. Last year it was named the ninth highest-grossing fair in the country by the Art Fair SourceBook—evidence, perhaps, of a public hungry for more.
The Woodlands Art League, which began meeting at Trinity Episcopal Church in 1981, now has hundreds of members and sponsors art classes for all ages at its gallery on Grogans Park Dr. Although several other Woodlands businesses offer art classes, the closest commercial gallery appears to be the Mossrock Studio & Fine Art Gallery in Spring, and the only museum is The Woodlands Children’s Museum.
According to Woodlands Art League president Joella Wheeler, there’s long been talk of building a visual arts center in town, but no plans are currently on the table. Meanwhile, when questioned about the arts scene, Susan Vreeland-Wendt, the director of marketing for The Woodlands Development Company, had this response: “Perhaps that will come in the future.”
According to Wheeler, “nobody really wants to donate a building or the land to build a dedicated center on. The land’s just too valuable.”