State of the Arts 2012
The conversation continues

A kaleidoscope of ideas, part two: How do the arts inspire you? Art leaders answer and the mayor chimes in

Collage what inspires you about art
Houston Ballet, Sara Webb, The Sleeping Beauty, chor. Ben Stevenson
Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Bill Arning, Joel State of the Arts Photo Essay
Photo Max Fields
Carol Herron, Arts In Medicine Program Coordinator, Texas Children's Hospital, French artist Gerard Visser encourages Texas Children's Cancer Center patient Brittany Jackson with an art project
Photo by Paul Kuntz/Texas Children's Hospital
Hans Graf, Houston Symphony, conductor
Photo by Bruce Bennett
Mary Magsamen Joel State of the Arts Photo Essay
Courtesy of Photo Courtesy of Aurora Picture Show
Robert Simpson, Houston Chamber Choir, Joel State of the Arts Photo Essay
Photo by Jeff Grass
Emilee Dawn Whitehurst, Rothko Chapel
Courtesy of Photo courtesy of Rothko Chapel
Toby Kamps
Photo by Toby Kamps
Mayor Annise Parker
Courtesy of Office of Mayor Annise Parker
Sarah Rothenberg
Photo by Tina Psoinos
Jane Weiner, Hope Stone, helicopter
Photo by Simon Gentry

Art inspires conversation. When we asked art movers and shakers to share their philosophies about how creativity incites thought, the responses kept on pouring in. 

So we are at it again, part two.

This photo essay captures diverse ideas that, like a kaleidoscope, render a vibrant image of the prowess of the arts to rouse discussion, be a catalyst for change and keep opening doors to re-imagine a vision for the future.

How does art inspire you?

Click through to read their answers. This time, even Mayor Annise Parker offers her musings.

The eyes may be the window to one's soul, but "art" is how one's soul can be heard. Whatever form the soul's voice takes, whatever emotion erupts, each soul needs to be heard with respect and reverence.

"Art" is a gift we give to each other in an effort to connect our souls and make the world more beautiful.

— Sara Webb
Principal Dancer, Houston Ballet

Sara Webb and artists of the Houston Ballet in The Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Ben Stevenson

Art inspires me because it takes me out of myself and reminds me that my perspective is but one of many. I have been preparing a lecture on the work of Marilyn Minter, a powerful conceptual painter, in anticipation of a show I am working on for Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2014.

For 30 plus years she has taken images from mass culture, like fashion and graffiti, and made them her own. And I get to see the culture I live in through very different life experiences and political positions than my own.

When I fully enter an artist's world, I get a reprieve from my own little dramas and that, for me, is very inspiring and liberating.

— Bill Arning
Director, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Art is a language, yet it requires no words. It breaks down walls, relieves fears, and provides comfort. Art can empower and tell a story. It can fill in the blanks when words are not enough. Art can open new opportunities and take us to new places.

I have seen the healing power of art.

— Carol Herron
Arts In Medicine Program Coordinator, Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers

Art keeps my mind fresh and full of curiosity, and — during my whole lifetime — art has inspired me to see the essential, the beautiful beyond the "useful" and "necessary." Things and thoughts which we seemingly do not to need for making a living, but which in truth we deeply need for living a life.

— Hans Graf
Music Director, Houston Symphony

What about art inspires me? The artists - they dedicate their creativity and passion and give the world a new way to see.

— Mary Magsamen
Curator, Aurora Picture Show

I am inspired by the way great art sparks our imagination and feeds our soul. It is no more a luxury than food and water in keeping us well and whole. This message must be a centerpiece of every child’s education. When it is, it transforms lives.

— Robert Simpson
Artistic Director, Houston Chamber Choir

The arts represent humanity’s highest aspirations. They testify to our innate dignity and, perhaps, hint at a divine spark within.

— Emilee Dawn Whitehurst
Executive Director, Rothko Chapel

Recently a few artists and culturally engaged folks and I imagined an exhibition of works of art we'd like to see. As we built our fantasy checklist of paintings, sculptures and film and video works, we started thinking about all the exciting threads running from our newly hatched idea to history, politics, industry, religion and consciousness itself.

This conversation (which I won’t tell you too much about because I think there could be a great show in it!) exemplifies what keeps me in love with art, museums, galleries and other exhibition spaces. They offer beautiful paths out of the bubbles of our own minds to new and extraordinary places.

— Toby Kamps
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Menil Collection


Art is in the interaction between artist and observer. That interaction can change with time, or with greater exposure or understanding.

The best art makes you see the world in a new way. It might make you smile, or snicker, or fume, but it captures your attention and imagination.

Mayor Annise Parker

Art allows us to experience life with heightened intensity: The most extreme emotions can be felt while sitting in the safety of a concert seat, turning the page of a book or gazing deeply at a painting. And each time this happens, the experience comes with a shock of discovery.

The power of art transcends time — a phrase of Mozart can move us to tears even though the notes were written on the page so long ago, like a magical time capsule that sends a breath of human life to us across centuries.

This, for me, is one of the most moving aspects of great art: It gives us the ability to feel beyond our solitary existence, it puts us into deep contact with those who lived long ago and with those who live very differently from us, and strangely enough, through this encounter with "the other," we discover ourselves.

— Sarah Rothenberg
Artistic and General Director, Da Camera of Houston

I have a piece I do in which I relate art to salt…..or is it salt to art?

It is based on a Russian fairytale about an old king with three daughters who wants to determine his successor. When he asks the first two about their love of him (which is the question he uses to determine the next leader) they speak of material things. He comes to his youngest, and she replies that she loves him as much as "salt."

He is outraged, and banishes her from the kingdom. In her banishment she makes friends as well as shares her tiny bit of food with a scocoress, who upon hearing her plight, casts a spell that extracts all the salt from the kingdom.

And thus the story goes, the village becomes weak, feeble, sickly . . . and the king, who is in fact dying from the "sodium free" plague, realizes the depth and breadth of his daughter's love. They are reunited and salt returns to the kingdom.

Fast forward to today . . . and here is where I equate the often "undetected by the human eye" effects of art and art education in our society. In my opinion the majority of people are not aware of all the amazing things art does for all of us, and the incredible impact it has on our culture and society.

So with this in mind, I am driven these days to be part of a movement that makes art education, established, attainable and constant to all of us, children and adults. The magnitude and positive far reaching effects of the arts and art education are marvelous to me. The creative thinking, problem solving and compassion that art brings to both children and adults who are given the chance to have art in their lives is life changing. I shudder to imagine the world art-less!

The picture of making arts education equal in importance to math, sciences, and language is my dream. Our motto at Hope Stone is Art for All, and I often say the arts and art education are primary and essential to creating a brighter future. I am lucky. I see the power and magic of art everyday in my life . . . and I want to help make pathways for everyone to have this vital part of life accessible to them.

— Jane Weiner
President and CEO, Hope Stone Dance