The Woodlands’ Public Art Obsession Creates a Colorful Wonderland: How You Can See It All
From Art Benches to a Giant Alex Katz to Bike Art, Something New Always AwaitsBY Jessica Payne // 05.18.23
Public art has always been a priority in The Woodlands, going back to its initial development and founder George Mitchell. The Woodlands Arts Council keeps that going. (Photo by Jessica T. Payne)
Alex Katz's The Flowers takes us an entire wall in The Waterway. It's just one of the public art wonders you can find in The Woodlands.
A colorful piece of art hangs in The Woodlands Mall. The Woodlands boasts 86 pieces of public art throughout the community. (Photo by Jessica T. Payne)
Residents and tourists alike can see the depth and variety of public art The Woodlands has to offer which includes art benches, mosaics, art bike loops, and more. (Photo by Jessica T. Payne)
Public art in The Woodlands proves to be not only beautiful but also interactive as a young girl plays on a musical bench. (Photo by Jessica T. Payne)
A colorful piece of art hangs in The Woodlands Mall. The Woodlands boasts more than 86 pieces of public art throughout the community. (Photo by Jessica T. Payne)
Residents and visitors alike can see the depth and variety of public art The Woodlands has to offer which includes art benches. (Photo by Jessica T. Payne)
Public art has always been a priority in The Woodlands, going back to its initial development and founder, George Mitchell, according to Executive Director of The Woodlands Arts Council Jenny Carattini-Wright. (Photo by Jessica T. Payne)
Whether it is a commissioned statue of a noted community leader in a town square or colorful splashes of spray paint creatively depicting street art on buildings, art frequently can be found outside of galleries and museums in The Woodlands. In fact, that’s by design in this unique hub of its own north of Houston.
While the public display of art objects is not a solely modern phenomenon, recent innovations in public art forms are bringing critical redefinitions of things like community, collective identity and social engagement with art. There may be nowhere that is more evident than in The Woodlands, which currently has more than 86 pieces of public art throughout the community.
The Woodlands is home to one of the largest public art collections in the entire State of Texas. Residents and visitors alike can see the depth and variety of that in art benches, mosaics, art bike loops and more.
“As The Woodlands Arts Council worked with The Woodlands Township and Howard Hughes to establish our Public Art Bench program, we considered how functional art could bring a sense of play and sculptural whimsy to our town center,” The Woodlands Arts Council executive director Jenny Carattini-Wright says. “Casually strolling through Town Green Park or The Woodlands Waterway, people of all ages are sitting on ‘You Are Loved’ or playing on ‘Discovery Art Bench’ or posing for a photo on ‘Mystical Senses.’
“Our mission is to help make art matter in Montgomery County and these pieces contribute to achieving that mission.”
Public art has always been part of the mission in The Woodlands, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The push for public art goes all the way back to the township’s initial development and founder George Mitchell. Now, The Howard Hughes’ Corporation’s vast Art Fund and The Woodlands Arts Council keep that drive going.
The Woodlands Arts Council Public Art Program has included five phases, with each bringing a new set of art benches in different locations. Each bench is underwritten by a local family or organization — and a call for artists is made.
Artists apply from all over the country and their designs are juried by representatives from The Woodlands Township, The Howard Hughes Corporation and The Woodlands Arts Council. Once juried, underwriters select a winning design, which is then installed a few months later.
One of the best parts about all The Woodlands art — what helps set it apart — is that it’s free and available for anyone to enjoy.
“Touring on the Woodlands Trolleys is a great way to experience the art bench collection,” Carattini-Wright says. “It is also fun to discover the many pieces all over The Woodlands. Whether hiking, biking, shopping, or engaging in other outdoor activities.”
One of the most recent — and striking — pieces of public art in The Woodlands is a mural by Alex Katz. Dubbed Flowers, this 35,000-square-foot art wonder is one of the largest murals in the entire state. It takes up a whole wall of south side of The Woodlands Waterway Square parking garage. You can find it across the street from The Westin at The Woodlands Waterway hotel.
The Howard Hughes’ Art Fund is a major driver behind the public art in The Woodlands, particularly the larger pieces. The Art Fund was created back in 1973 by community leader Coulson Tough under the direction of the founder of The Woodlands George Mitchell. More than 70 pieces of art have come as a result of this forward-thinking fund. Howard Hughes has contributed millions to the fund throughout the years, dedicating a percentage of the proceeds from its commercial developments to public art in the community.
That is how ingrained public art is in The Woodlands.
Of course, with this being The Woodlands, more public art is always coming. Both The Howard Hughes Corporation and The Woodlands Arts Council are working on plotting new installations and The Woodlands Arts Council will be installing five new art bike racks in October.
The Woodlands offers a natural setting to enjoy all its art. You can experience it walking, bicycling or kayaking. Sometimes, you’ll just stumble upon it. The Woodlands’ art isn’t always showy, but make no mistake this a community with an incredible volume and caliber of public art.
The art is part of what makes The Woodlands the place that it is.
For a quick guide to The Woodlands’ public art and more info on where to find it, go to Visit The Woodlands.