Four smaller days instead

Museum District Day gets a major makeover: Free one-day bonanza ended amid crowd concerns

Museum District Day gets a major makeover: Free one-day bonanza ended amid crowd concerns

Houston Museum District Day, logo, January 2013
Museum District Day is now "The Museum Experience" — a series of quarterly block parties each centered around a small portion of the district. Houston Museum District/Facebook
Houston Museum District Day, map, January 2013
For the new format, the Museum District is breaking down into four smaller zones. Map courtesy of Houston Museum District
Hillerbrand + Magsamen, Cerberus, dog, bread
On Jan. 26, the Houston Center for Photography kicks off its print auction exhibit, featuring this piece by Hillerbrand + Magsamen (Cerberus, 2012, 22 x 16"). Photo courtesy of the artists and DARKE gallery, Houston
9, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Gems of Medici, December 2012
Gems of The Medici at Houston Museum of Natural Science Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science
Rothko Chapel, tai chi, yoga, meditation
Meditation classes on the plaza at Rothko Chapel Rothko Chapel/Facebook
Museum District Day, Museum of Fine Arts, Hosuton, Leslie Hewitt in collaboration with Bradford Young, Untitled (Structures), 2012
At the Menil Collection on Jan. 26, Leslie Hewitt and Bradford Young with discuss their new film installation Untitled (Structures). Photo courtesy of the artists and Lucien Terras Inc.
News_Twombly_photo essay_The Cy Twombly Gallery_The Menil
Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection Photo by Cameron Blaylock
Houston Museum District Day, logo, January 2013
Houston Museum District Day, map, January 2013
Hillerbrand + Magsamen, Cerberus, dog, bread
9, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Gems of Medici, December 2012
Rothko Chapel, tai chi, yoga, meditation
Museum District Day, Museum of Fine Arts, Hosuton, Leslie Hewitt in collaboration with Bradford Young, Untitled (Structures), 2012
News_Twombly_photo essay_The Cy Twombly Gallery_The Menil

Many who've visited one of Houston's fine cultural institutions on Museum District Day will agree that the outrageously popular "free day" has outgrown itself.

After 15 years, the Houston Museum District Association (HMDA) is replacing its trademark event with a series of quarterly block parties dubbed "The Museum Experience." Scheduled throughout the year, each of these smaller events will concentrate on one of four walkable "zones" within the district.

 "Last year's Museum District Day drew 28,000 attendees . . . And a lot of people were visiting as many museums as they could."

 Missing from "The Museum Experience" events will be the always-popular free admission component, although the museum consortium stresses that 11 of its 19 institutions require no admission fees any day. The other eight have free days weekly or once a month.

"Last year's Museum District Day drew 28,000 attendees," ​HMDA ​executive director Laurette Cañizares tells CultureMap. "And a lot of people were visiting as many museums as they could."

The results? Complete and utter chaos.

"Museum District Day started in the late '90s with only 11 museums. Now that there are a total of 19, we needed to find a way to maintain a positive visitor experience," Cañizares says. "The big museums have been getting so crowded and smaller places were getting overlooked . . . It was time for a change."

Cañizares feels the new Museum Experience setup will allow patrons to explore museums without having to keep a tight schedule and encourage people to visit the Museum District throughout the year, rather than on one particular day each year. Here's the schedule:

  • Zone 1 (Jan. 26): Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel, Houston Center for Photography
  • Zone 2 (April 27): Holocaust Museum, Asia Society, Weather Museum, Czech Center, Lawndale Art Center, Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
  • Zone 3 (July 27): Jung Center of Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • Zone 4 (Sept. 28): Children’s Museum of Houston, Health Museum, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Zoo, Rice Art Gallery

The inaugural Museum Experience on Saturday, Jan. 26 will feature special programming at the Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel and Houston Center for Photography. Click for details.