Great Eight! Get Our Picks for Arts and Culture for the Holidays and the New Year

Great Eight! Get Our Picks for Arts and Culture for the Holidays and the New Year

Houston Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

FOR THE HOLIDAYS and new year, Houston’s art scene is vibrant and alive. Make note of our hot list!

1. Get Groovy

Houston Contemporary Dance Company

Houston dance lovers are still talking about last January’s powerhouse performance by Ishida, the only U.S. company recognized in Dance Magazine’s “25 to watch” for 2024. See what the fuss is about when Ishida presents keepsake (Jan. 12-13), an evening of poetically imagined cutting-edge movement. And in the spring, Houston Contemporary Dance Company embodies the title of its show Electrostatic Attraction (Apr. 20), with a world premiere by Houston Ballet’s Jack Wolff and audience faves from the past four seasons.

2. 'Family' Man

Bestselling, award-winning author Bryan Washington, whose muse is the city of Houston, dropped his second novel, Family Meal, in the fall. “The broken queer men of color” in Family Meal, per a WaPo review, “are written as neither symbols nor archetypes but as an achingly and beautifully etched ensemble of young Americans learning to navigate a more universal and human struggle: grief.”

3. Galleries Galore

‘Giant Deer’ by Shayne Murphy

Houston’s galleries are always an embarrassment of riches — and that’s never more true than during the holiday season. Don’t-miss exhibits include Redbud Art Center’s Coastal Gardens (Dec. 2-30) — haunting, allegorically-based watercolors by Michael Collins. On view at Inman Gallery is Something Nice With Swans (through Jan. 13), David Aylsworth’s latest batch of wittily titled abstract paintings. Over at Anya Tish Gallery, Shayne Murphy brings his waking dreams and nightmares to life with Cataplexy (through Dec. 30). In Dyaspora at The Jung Center of Houston (through Dec. 21), Haitian-born artist Mathieu JN Baptiste’s oil-and-acrylic paintings decipher the American dream from the perspective of a first-generation immigrant. And with holiday shopping in mind, Hooks-Epstein Galleries presents Wear It Out, a group art jewelry invitational with all manner of baubles, bangles and beads crafted by nine different artists.

4. Totally 'Rad

Midtown’s popular beer-garden-slash-music-venue Axelrad, which has become beloved by the jazz community for its Wednesday-night jam sessions, has dropped its first album, a collaboration with Wonky Power Records. Live at Axelrad features five different jazz groups recorded at the venue on Sept. 6, and is available via its Bandcamp page.

5. Lab Grown

CAMHLAB featured artist Nate Edwards

Downtown’s Post Houston building is home to a fab food hall, cool rooftop garden, a bumpin’ music venue — and a few artists-in-residence. Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston’s CAMHLAB program at Post currently features the work of four local artists or collectives, all of which have created projects inspired by and telling the stories of Freedman’s Town, a neighborhood established in Houston in 1865 by more than 1,000 formerly enslaved people.

6. Holiday Hits

Houston Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

This season, the Houston Symphony offers a range of holiday programming, including Tim Burton’s stop-animation film The Nightmare Before Christmas projected on the big screen as the score is played live (Dec. 9-10); Duke Ellington’s swinging version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker (Dec. 12); and Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 15-17), featuring the angelic voices of the Houston Symphony Chorus. Meanwhile, the Alley Theatre’s annual production A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 30) is comfort food for the soul. At Stages, the Cheshire cat meets Bad Bunny in Panto Alicia in Wonderland (Dec. 1-31) — an all-ages, Latinx spin on the Lewis Carroll classic. And the Ballet’s Nutcracker takes center stage through Dec. 27.

7. 'Over' and Above

An untitled Janet Sobel painting

Janet Sobel’s paintings, featuring her “all-over” abstraction methods, may bring to mind the work of Jackson Pollock — but the skilled New York artist preceded Pollock by a few years. In February, the Menil hangs her major paintings all together for the first time in more than six decades.

8. Page Turner

A must-read thriller for 2024 is Nishita Parekh’s Night of the Storm (out Jan. 16). Set in Sugar Land during Hurricane Harvey, Parekh’s debut features a multigenerational Indian-American family who find themselves trapped by floodwaters in a house with a murderer — an inventive update of the classic “locked-room” mystery.

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