Fine Arts

Arts 101: interview with Karen Farber

The Daily Cougar: What is the purpose of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts?

Karen Farber: The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center was founded to break new ground in the arts at UH. We cultivate collaboration among the performing, visual and literary arts by inviting major visiting artists to develop new work with us. Then we present these visionary new works to the UH community and the public. While artists are in residence with the Mitchell Center, they interact with UH students and faculty in a variety of ways. By focusing on interdisciplinary collaboration, the Mitchell Center aims to open us to new ways of seeing and understanding the arts … and the world around us.

We are the product of a $20 million gift that was made to UH in 2003. Some of that gift formed a generous endowment for our programming. We work on innovative projects with our member departments at UH: the Schools of Art, Music, and Theatre and Dance, as well as the Creative Writing Program and the Blaffer Art Museum.

2. How can UH students get involved?

The most direct way to get involved is to take an interdisciplinary art class. IART is open to all majors, and is offered as a minor for undergraduates. Each course is offered to graduate students as well. One of our courses, collaboration among the arts, provides funding for small groups to create interdisciplinary art projects over the course of the semester. Our guest artists visit IART classes and connect with students throughout the semester. Of course, we hope all UH students will attend our events, most of which are offered free of charge. Visit our website at for upcoming events.

3. Is there a past event the center is particularly proud of hosting? One that was most memorable?

There are many: a talk entitled “Creativity and Collaboration” by the world-famous composer Philip Glass; a residency and culminating exhibition at Blaffer Art Museum by the conceptual art collective; The Center for Land Use Interpretation, titled “Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry”; our recent presentation of performing artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s amazing new performance work “red, black, and GREEN: a blues,” which was the product of his three year residency in Houston; the 2011 screening of films aboard a floating screen on the Tex Hex, a Mitchell Center-commissioned artist made boat, an event that was organized by our program director Bree Edwards.

4. What kind of events can students look forward to this spring?

On April 20 we will present “En Masse,” a grand spectacle at Discovery Green, featuring the UH Cougar marching band playing music we have commissioned for them by New York-based Haitian-American composer Daniel Bernard Roumain. Roumain will perform on violin at the park as well. It will be like a deconstructed parade — completely surreal. The event lasts four hours and visitors can follow members of the band around the park throughout the day, and come and go as they please. Roumain is in residence with us, embedded with the band, for the next two years.

5. What message do you have for students who don’t know a lot about the center? Is there anything you’d like them to know?

Art is for everyone. The more experimental art is often easier to relate to, not harder. It is about the contemporary, the world right here in front of us. These are artists living among us and telling our stories. We are particularly committed to presenting artists of color and artists from other parts of the world, to keep UH engaged in a global conversation.

The Mitchell Center’s events are almost all free and open to everyone. Come as you are, with your friend, your dog, your little sister, anyone. In this day and age, we are all artists. We make films, take pictures and tell stories daily through our mobile devices. The Mitchell Center is dedicated to elevating the art of our time and continuing to show us how to connect with it as an essential part of becoming ever-more creative and forward-looking in our lives and careers.

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