Texas Arts Institutions Assess Hurricane Harvey’s Damage

Since Hurricane Harvey began to batter the Gulf Coast on Friday, August 25, there have been at least ten deaths, countless rescues, and thousands of people displaced from their homes. While Harvey has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, the torrential rain has yet to let up, and rivers continue to rise. According to Brock Long, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Texans will be tasked with finding “a new normal” when moving forward from this disaster. Art institutions affected by the storm are assessing damages and beginning to think about the path to recovery.

According to Tarra Gaines of CultureMap Houston, the city’s theater district has sustained heavy damages—nearly every major performing arts venue is waterlogged. The Alley Theater’s Neuhaus Theater and lobby are flooded; its electric systems are currently underwater. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, the Wortham Theater Center, and Jones Hall all have significant water damage. Meanwhile, small to mid-size theaters, including A. D. Players, the Classical Theater Company, Main Street Theater, MATCH, and Studio 101 at Spring Street, have all confirmed that their spaces are weathering the storm fairly well.

The Blaffer Art Museum, the Houston Center for Photography, the Menil Collection, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston have also reported that their buildings and collections are safe. “Fortunately, because of our longtime protocols for storm preparation, managed by our Hurricane Planning Group, our collections have not been impacted at all, and there have been only limited issues with our facilities. Advance planning—for sandbags, emergency water pumps, and the floodgates that are installed at various critical points around the campus—has largely mitigated potential issues,” Mary Haus, the head of marketing and communications at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, said.

According to Artnews, Rice University, Project Row Houses, and the Galveston Arts Center have mostly been spared as well. The Rockport Center for the Arts in Corpus Christi, however, which was located directly in Harvey’s path, did not fare as well. A statement issued by its director Luis Purón reads: “From images I have been provided and third-party accounts, it appears the building has sustained serious external damage. One image demonstrates that the front porch is completely gone and a roof structure in the front of the building that is exposed and thus compromised. It is entirely possible that additional damage to the roof exists, yet only an on-site inspection will reveal that. We are working on obtaining that information. The building is still standing as it has since 1983, a few feet from Aransas Bay. It remains unclear if all the sculptures in the sculpture garden collection survived the 130 mile-per-hour winds of Harvey’s category four direct impact to Rockport. We won’t know about internal damage until we are able to re-enter and inspect the building. The timeline for that is uncertain . . . Rockport has a strong and generous heart, great will, and unbridled determination. United, we can restore our community in a responsible way.”

In a statement, Jane Chu, the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, said: “The NEA expresses its deepest concern and most heartfelt sympathies for the millions of people in Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are confronted by this disaster. We are working to coordinate support for arts organizations in the regions designated a disaster area by FEMA, and we stand ready to support the recovery of the arts and cultural communities in the devastated areas. In the past, the NEA has responded to national emergencies, including disaster relief in the wake of September 11, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, and Tupelo, Mississippi. We are coordinating with the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Division of the Arts in the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development to assess the situation and those arts organizations hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey. As the current situation stabilizes, the National Endowment for the Arts is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.”

Emergency resources for artists impacted by Hurricane Harvey are listed in a Google spreadsheet created by the Houston-based organization Fresh Arts. It can be found here.