The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts is dedicated to ground-breaking, transformational collaborations across the performing, visual, and literary arts. Based in the University of Houston Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, the Mitchell Center commissions and produces new works, presents public performances and exhibitions, supports curriculum and scholarships, and hosts residencies with renowned visiting artists from throughout the world. The Mitchell Center forms an alliance among five departments at UH: the School of Art, Moores School of Music, School of Theatre and Dance, Creative Writing Program, and Blaffer Art Museum.
The Mitchell Center was formed in late 2003 with a gift from George Mitchell in honor of his wife, Cynthia Woods Mitchell, whose long-standing love of the arts was so evident throughout her life. The Mitchell family’s desire was to make a donation that would impact each of the University of Houston’s strong arts programs. Working closely with UH leadership, the family proposed a programmatic alliance among the schools of Art, Music, and Theatre & Dance, as well as the Creative Writing Program and Blaffer Art Museum. $16 million was designated to form an endowment for the Centers programs, and $4 million covered the renovation of the School of Theatre & Dance facility, making room for new studios, a lobby for the Wortham Theatre, and offices for the Mitchell Center staff. The building was renamed the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.In its early months, Center operations were overseen by its board: the directors of the five member units. In December 2005, Karen Farber became the Center’s first full-time director, with a mandate to develop a cohesive vision and program for the Center, while planning for its future.In its first few years, the Mitchell Center has offered extensive public events, residencies, and commissions; developed a comprehensive interdisciplinary curriculum for UH students; compiled a Faculty Affiliate Network of the Center; and continued to fund scholarships and fellowships on an annual basis. For more information about past programming, see past events.
Our program is dedicated to cultivating collaboration among the performing, visual and literary arts at the University of Houston. Through our residencies, site-specific art projects, lectures and conversations, we aim to create new forms, provide fresh contexts for experiencing the arts, and generate vigorous dialogue about what we are seeing and hearing.A few core themes serve as common threads throughout our work: art and social justice, cultivating the unexpected encounter with art in the public sphere, and providing platforms for creative research and entrepreneurial ideas. Our residencies support the development of new creative work in a nurturing environment, where artists can delve into needed research, experiment freely, and collaborate with counterparts from other disciplines.Whether you are a member of the public, a UH student, or part of one of the many communities with which we work, we hope you take advantage of our programs, curriculum, and the opportunities we provide to connect and collaborate with one another.See you soon!
Karen Farber is Executive Director of the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, where she oversees all aspects of the center’s artistic, scholarly, and administrative operations. Farber’s 16 year career in arts administration has included positions at organizations throughout the U.S. including Houston Grand Opera (TX), Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (MA), the 92nd Street Y (NY), and International Production Associates (NY). She was a 2002-3 Fellow in the DeVos Center for Arts Management at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and currently serves on several advisory boards including The Catastrophic Theatre, Houston Cinema Arts Society, and the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH). She has been a member of many other boards and committees for organizations including Fresh Arts, Discovery Green Park, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, and Houston Arts Alliance. Her service to the University of Houston includes membership on the System Wide Art Acquisition Committee, the Honors College Society of Fellows, and the Bauer College Business mentorship program of the National Association of Women MBAs. She has been a consultant for Creative Capital Foundation and has served on grant panels for organizations including the MAP Fund and the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division. Farber is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with an M.A. in Performance Studies and a B.F.A. in Experimental Theater.
Pia Agrawal joined the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts as Program Director in August 2014 where she ensures the success of the center’s public programming including the Mitchell Artist Lecture, the annual CounterCurrent Festival, and activities relating to the Mitchell Center Artists-in-Residence program. Prior to her work at the Mitchell Center, she served as the Managing Director of the Rude Mechs (Austin, TX) and as Programming Director of FringeArts (Philadelphia, PA). She has also freelanced as an event planner for nonprofits including the Austin Film Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. On top of her full-time pursuits, Ms. Agrawal works with young, independent theater and dance artists on fundraising, tour management and publicity. She has served on grant panels for organizations including the the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division (2014), Fusebox Festival (2013), the MAP Fund (2013) and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (2010). Ms. Agrawal is a graduate of Haverford College with a B.A. in sociology and economics.
Lanna M. Morris serves as the Administrative Coordinator for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. In this capacity, Lanna is the go to person for the day to day operations of the office, maintaining contracts, payments and keeping track of the Center’s finances. Having worked in the arts as a child and in her youth, she is eager and excited to be working in the arts again. She has previously worked with University of Houston’s Department of Mathematics, Hilton College, and School of Pharmacy. Lanna holds a B.S. from Lamar University, where she studied Family Studies. She also holds a Doctorate in Chiropractic and a B.S. in Biology from Texas Chiropractic College.
The Mitchell Center fosters not only relationships between artists but also with other local, national, and international arts organizations. This network of relationships allows us to be supremely elastic in discovering and fostering new modes of interdisciplinary expression and experience. The Mitchell Center does not have a specific venue to call its own. Instead we work with partners to discover and develop new places where the arts can be experienced by a wide swath of different audiences, not always served by the traditional venues.
The University of Houston is defined by its urban setting, and the Mitchell Center is engaged on an ongoing basis with our city, particularly our immediate neighborhood, the Third Ward. Our current program is Performing the Neighborhood, a five-year partnership between the Mitchell Center and Project Row Houses to commission and present major performance-based works by contemporary artists in the Third Ward neighborhood of Houston. These large-scale co-commissions will draw upon the neighborhood, as well as the rich, often complicated intersection between the university campus and its surrounding community.
Mitchell Center organizational and commissioning partnerships have included Creative Time, BAM, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Project Row Houses, Lawndale Art Center, Aurora Picture Show, Da Camera of Houston, Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), Alley Theatre, DiverseWorks, Blaffer Art Museum, and more.