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Growing up in a suburb of Houston made a trip to the city a hassle. But anytime I’d find myself there, it would most likely be to enjoy a museum day trip with my friends. If you’re from Houston, you know how beautiful the museum district is, and how nostalgic yet comforting it can feel to be there. There’s a similar theme throughout all of the museums within the district; the desire to inspire, celebrate art, and feel connected to something.

If you aren’t familiar with Houston’s museum district, it’s a designated area in the inner loop that offers 19 different museums to the general public. Growing up, my favorite one to visit was the Contemporary Museum, which sits directly across the street from the more famous Fine Arts Museum.

 The Contemporary Museum was founded in 1948 and has quickly become a cultural center in Houston, giving a variety of regional and international artists the platform to tell a story and illustrate how we consume modern art in the 21st century. It’s interesting to continuously come back and see how each revolving artist interprets the given space in their own way by completely altering the setup of the layout design. These changes could be several things; painting the walls different colors, adding sculptures, projectors, pieces of furniture, fabrics, stage equipment, abstract patterns, and even performance art. 

Photo by Kayla Simone

The Menil Collection began operating in 1987, featuring extensive collections of different periods of international art ranging from the ancient world to various forms of contemporary modern art. One of the founders, Dominique De Menil, hired architect Renzo Piano to design the building within the neighborhood to instill a feeling of comfort and security. The building’s design is meant to be simple and minimalist. It has a rectangular form, open floor plan, tall roof system and white-washed exterior that is illuminated at night. 

Recently, I have spent a lot more of my time at The Menil Collection. I had the pleasure of having a creative photoshoot on the lawn directly in front of the building through the Fashion and Business Organization at UH. I wanted to try using physical objects as makeup, which resulted in me turning 3 models into mythical creatures that I wanted to try and blend into the environment using dried-up pressed flowers. 

I decided to do the photoshoot at Menil because I think it offers something for everyone. Even within a crowd of people, the patio area gives off a peaceful essence that makes it feel like a meditative space. I’ve seen a lot of individuals do different activities like yoga, play with their dogs, paint with their friends, journal or lay out in the sun and enjoy someone else’s company.

Photo by Kayla Simone

Along the lawn, there’s an archway of enormous dark green oak trees that extend their long branches alongside the ground making them the perfect setup for a fairy photoshoot. The photographer I worked with, Kayla Simone, had the models sit on the branches, placing different colored fabrics alongside them to contrast with their delicate, lightly colored dresses. 

I felt very comfortable at Menil. It was a place where I felt like I could reflect and feel at peace as to where life has brought me. Also, I probably should have mentioned earlier that it’s always free to the general public. So, if you’ve made it this far and have never been to The Menil Collection, grab a friend and go right now! Or even better, go by yourself. You never know, you just might fall in love with it. 

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