Creative outlets flourish in Cy-Fair

Creative outlets flourish in Cy-Fair Guests view art on display during an open house in December at the Purple Elephant Gallery in Cy-Fair.[/caption]

Fueled mainly by the efforts of passionate individuals and dedicated nonprofits, the art scene in Cy-Fair continues to thrive into 2015.

Several theaters in the area, including the Houston Family Arts Center and Playhouse 1960, have overseen renovations made possible by private donations. Playhouse 1960 renovated its lobby in November, and the board at HFAC has overseen ongoing renovations since building a new black box theater at the end of 2013.

Julie Montgomery, who was selected as president of the HFAC board in January, said it is a combination of donors and support from the general community that helped fund the improvements. Increases in ticket sales caused the nonprofit to add a fourth week of shows for each performance, she said.

"But that also means we have to spend more money on producing and presenting the show for one more week," she said. "Our top initiatives this year include continuing to build the arts community here while also trying to develop some relationships with potential corporate sponsors to help us grow."

Debra Reese, founder of The Purple Elephant Gallery and Iron Butterfly Studio, said she thinks the number of artists practicing their craft in the area has grown along with public interest.

"We have a group of artists who work and display at our gallery and a waiting list of people who want to get in," Reese said. "As soon as one artist moves out, another moves in."

Artists at the Purple Elephant Gallery provide workshops and classes in a variety of media, but also host open house events twice a year during which artists can display and sell their work.

Reese founded The Purple Elephant in 2011 as a gathering spot for the local Cy-Fair arts community. The main gallery features a rotating display of the work of local artists, such as sculptors, painters and pottery crafters. The nearby Iron Butterfly Studio functions as a workshop area and classroom as well as display space for some of Reese's favorite pieces.

One of the goals from the start was bringing art to the suburbs, Reese said. Over time, she has added more buildings—including a thatched-roof gazebo structure—to serve as galleries and gathering places for other local groups.

Some of the most prolific sources of art in the Cypress area are educational institutions, including Cy-Fair ISD and Lone Star College. With money slowly coming back to public schools after steep budget cuts were made in the 82nd legislative session four years ago, opportunities exist to further expand funding for arts programs at CFISD.

The Texas Commission on the Arts, a statewide advocacy group dedicated to promoting funding for the arts, partnered with Texas Cultural Trust to produce the 2015 State of the Arts Report in January. Among the findings, the report found that students who are engaged in the arts have 15 percent higher pass rates on standardized tests than students who do not take art classes, and at-risk students with more than one art class are half as likely to drop out.

A TCT survey of 600 Texans found 80 percent support increased funding for the arts in schools. With commencement of the 84th legislative session on Jan. 13, the commission is asking for $13 million in appropriations for fine arts programs.

Cy-Fair arts venues

The Lone Star College–CyFair Center for the Arts Building includes Main Stage and Black Box theaters, a recital hall for musical performances, amphitheater and the Bosque Art Gallery. Address: 9191 Barker Cypress Road, Cypress

The Purple Elephant Art Gallery and Iron Butterfly Studio features the work of artists in the Cypress community. Address: 12802 McSwain Road, Cypress

Nearby theaters that put on dramatic performances every year include the Houston Family Arts Center (10760 Grant Road, Houston), Playhouse 1960 (6814 Gant Road) and the Texas Repertory Theatre in Spring (14243 Steubner Airline Road, Houston)
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.