It might seem strange to see a Gutenberg Bible page pulled using mid-1400s technology, or the Declaration of Independence being printed on an authentic 19th-century iron hand-press. At The Printing Museum, where local artists give live demonstrations of real, working artifacts, these sights are almost commonplace. In its mission to preserve and share the history of written communication, the organization functions as part museum and part interactive classroom. A permanent collection highlights preserved prints and gear from around the world?from ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets to Civil War-era newspapers. This collection even includes a display of equipment and documents belonging to Texas' first printer.
However, the museum's four galleries and 14,000 square feet of space aren't just reserved for relics. Every year, staff curate 12 rotating exhibits that, in the past, have covered the work of contemporary printmakers and photographers or explored the evolution of modern printing around the world. Meanwhile, an on-site print shop holds hands-on, all-ages workshops in typography, paper-making, and other forms of print-based art.
After retiring from his upholstering job at the Southern Pacific Railroad, John Milkovisch spent his free time building structures around his house and drinking beers with his wife Mary. But when he ran out of space for building, he decided to use up his extra beer cans to create a shiny siding for his structures and his house. He began in 1968, and within 20 years he had completely covered his property with an estimated 50,000 aluminum and glass cans. The result was both fashionable and functional, with swaying garlands tinkling in the breeze, strings of cans adding a luster to all surfaces of the house, and the protective weight of the cans even helping cut the house?s energy costs. But you can?t have a house this striking and not get noticed. So pretty soon people began making trips to see this can-covered house, and in 2007, it was moved into the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. Now guests can peer inside the house and examine the structures without getting chased by the owner's beer can-covered dog. The house?s guided tours also feature a documentary that covers the history of the project since its inception forty years ago.
The story begins, in a way, with Ima Hogg. It was her land on which Carroll Sterling Masterson and her husband Harris Masterson III planned to build their home after they purchased it in 1952. The Mastersons, working with renowned architect John Staub, erected a sprawling home they named Rienzi, whose layout blended contemporary elements with homages to Palladian and 18th-century English design. Having dedicated their lives to the arts, the philanthropists gave their home to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston in 1991, and the building was opened to the public in 1999.
Rienzi Museum of Fine Arts Houston now houses the Masterson?s eclectic collection of European decorative arts that they assembled over the course of 40 years, ranging from paintings, furnishings, and miniatures made from the 17th through the mid-19th centuries. Giving visitors of all ages a chance to understand the collection?s nuances, Rienzi staff hosts educational programs and events throughout the year, engaging guests in activities such as sketching sessions, art workshops, and lectures. Along with their dedication to visual arts, the museum celebrates the music of the 17th?19th centuries via live performances of chamber music, opera, and selections from Beethoven?s spoken-word album.
Rienzi also features gardens designed in the 1950s by landscape architect Ralph Ellis Gunn. Having created a visually stunning green space that embraced the 4.4-acre property?s natural topography, Gunn?s garden remains a tranquil haven of lush plants and scenic trails.
The 14-acre Bayou Bend estate, the former abode of philanthropist and informal First Lady of Texas Ima Hogg, was finished in 1928 and donated to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts by 1957. Hogg then transformed her mansion into a de facto museum, accumulating one of the largest collections of American decorative art in the world. The nearly 5,000 masterly pieces range from furniture to ceramics, and in age from Colonial America all the way to the end the Civil War.