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Mexico City

April 3-9, 2018

Though it is one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City remains a city of distinct neighborhoods. Guided by Dr. Lois Zamora, this tour will engage the multiple historical layers of this city, all of which still exist to varying degrees and mark contemporary Mexican culture. We will begin with the traces of the great Aztec city of Tenochtitlán, then move to the Spanish empire’s imposition of their monumental city, to arrive at the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, which marks the true beginning of modern Mexico City.  We will visit during the week following Easter, 2018.

Romantic Rarities: Brian Connelly

Three Wednesdays, October 18, November 1 and 15, 6:30–8:00 P.M | All sessions will meet in a private residence in River Oaks; address to be provided to subscribers. Limited enrollment

Few periods in history offer such captivating complexity as Europe in the 19th century, when a continental awakening emphasized national identity and propagated a romantic view of cultural self-expression through music.  Revolutionary in the move away from rigid convention, symmetry, and form, composers celebrated and embodied the Romantic flowering of the period.   Bohemian music came into its own, symphonic and chamber music flourished under French composers, and authentic Russian music was born. Brian Connelly will perform music from the second half of the 19th century, featuring great composers who are beloved for their orchestral and operatic works, but whose masterpieces for solo piano are rarely heard.  Each session will focus on a particular city, with discussion of the composers, their music, and the cultural life of the region during the late Romantic era. 

October 18: PRAGUE:  Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák.  In a city of growing industry, population, and nationalism, these Czech masters wrote copious, brilliant, and soulful evocations of East-European folk idioms.    

November 1: PARIS:  César Franck and Gabriel Fauré.  In Paris, which played an important role as a center of high culture, two foremost composers delighted in opulent, glittering keyboard virtuosity from the pinnacle of French Romanticism.

November 15: ST. PETERSBURG:  Peter Tchaikovsky, Mikhail Glinka, and Modest Mussorgsky.  In the Imperial capital, culture flourished in spite of an oppressive regime.  Composers invented sublime Russian music, turning to folk music and to the history and everyday life of the common people for inspiration. 

Brian Connelly teaches piano performance and chamber music in the Shepherd School of Music at Rice and is the artistic director of the renowned chamber ensemble Context, now in its twelfth season.   His career embraces a broad range of historical and modern repertoires and styles. Mr. Connelly has premiered works by a host of contemporary composers, and is widely known for his performances of the music of modern master Olivier Messiaen. Respected as a scholar and performer of historical instruments, he has appeared throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Hot Button Issues: Where Are We Now?

Two Tuesdays, November 28 and December 5, 6:00–7:30 P.M. | Covenant Church, 4949 Caroline, 77004, in the museum district. Parking available behind the church or on adjacent streets.

November 28: The word unprecedented has been applied to the Trump presidency over and over again.  Both style and substance have upended presidential traditions and brought reversals and radical actions on hot-button issues.  In this session, Houston’s political gurus Richard Murray and Bob Stein bring their expertise and keen insights to the current political situation. 

Professor Murray holds the Bob Lanier Chair in urban public policy at the University of Houston and is director of the Survey Research Institute at the University’s Center for Public Policy.  During his long career, he has consulted for more than 200 political campaigns.  His analyses and commentary are frequently carried on radio and television and in the print media.

Professor Stein is the fellow in urban politics at the Baker Institute and the Lena Grohlman Fox Professor of Political Science at Rice University. He also is the faculty director of Rice’s Center for Civic Engagement. Stein’s current research includes a focus on alternative modes of elections and voting procedures in the U.S.

December 5: What is the role of media and the press in today’s 24-hour-news-coverage world, and how do we identify real facts with so many news options to choose from?  In this session, Jeff Cohen and Mimi Swartz will give us insight and their perspective on this ever-changing topic.

Jeff Cohen is executive vice president and executive editor of the Houston Chronicle in charge of the opinion pages.  He assumed this role in January 2013 after serving for more than 10 years as the Chronicle’s editor.  Mr. Cohen grew up in Houston, received his journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and started his career with Hearst Corporation in 1976 as a sportswriter for the San Antonio Light

Mimi Swartz is an executive editor of Texas Monthly and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.  She is the author, with Sherron Watkins, of Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron, and her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Esquire, Slate, National Geographic, and Vogue.  Currently, she is at work on a book about heart disease.

U.S.-Mexico Relations: The Age of Trump

Three Tuesdays, September 26, October 10 and 17, 6:30–8:00 P.M. | MATCH, 3400 Main Street at Holman, 77002. Street parking and paid parking available.

U.S. news coverage of Mexico increased exponentially as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign gained traction, and since he took office.  Almost daily, print and electronic media have addressed Mexico’s reaction to the president’s stated intentions regarding NAFTA, the Great Wall, militarization of the border, manufacturing plants owned by U.S. companies in Mexico as well as a host of other issues. 

Our speakers will consider the Mexican government’s strategic response to the new realities of its standing with the current administration, and what lies ahead for U.S. relations with our third largest trading partner – and for Mexico, whose largest trading partner we are.  There is a great deal at stake for all of us – economically, politically, culturally, and in broad humanitarian terms.

These lectures are prefatory to the Seminar’s Mexico City study tour, April 3-9, 2018, but are open to all who are interested in the topic.

September 26:  Gabriel Cavazos Villanueva “The Future of Mexico-U.S. Trade and Investment”
Dr. Cavazos specializes in international trade law, transnational litigation, and arbitration. He is a professor of law and dean of the School of Social Sciences and Government for the Northern Region of Monterrey Tech University, and director of the North American Consortium on Legal Education (NACLE), of which the University of Houston Law Center is a founding member. 

October 10:  Francisco Cantú “Mexico’s Political Parties and the Upcoming
Presidential Election”
Dr. Cantú’s research areas are Latin American politics and comparative politics, with emphasis on Mexican political parties and electoral systems. He is assistant professor of political
science at the University of Houston, with degrees from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City and the University of California in San Diego (MA and PhD). 

October 17:  Tony Payán “The U.S.-Mexico Border in the Age of Donald Trump”
Director of the Mexico Center at the Baker Institute, and the Françoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow in Mexico Studies, both at Rice University, Dr. Payán is a political scientist whose research focuses on border studies, particularly the border between the U.S. and Mexico. He is a member of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Immigration Task Force as well as its Mexico Energy Task Force.

Lois Stark: The Telling Image

Tuesday, November 14, 6:30–8:00 P.M. | American General Conference Room, Mezzanine level, Audrey Jones Beck Building, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 5601 Main Street. Parking available in garage.

Documentary filmmaker Lois Stark notes that history is often told as a story of rulers and wars; she prefers to tell the story of human history through the lens of shape. 

Ms. Stark will illustrate the mental maps that shape how humans build shelters, bind social systems, and form sacred sites.  She avers that early humans understood the world as a web, building round thatched huts and stone circles. In contrast, industrial age humans saw the world as a ladder, ordered by hierarchy and measurement, from pyramids to skyscrapers. In today’s interconnected world, she contends, networks are our mental map, as seen in everything from architecture to biology to social media. By noticing past shapes, Ms. Stark asserts that we can anticipate what’s next. Nature does not change, only the map in the human mind.

Lois Farfel Stark is the author of the forthcoming book The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times. She has been a producer and writer for NBC News, filming in Africa, the Middle East, Cuba, Northern Ireland, Europe, and the USA. She has produced and written over forty documentaries on architecture, medical research, globalization, artists, and social issues.  She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and has master’s degrees in communication and in education.

Inside the Middle East

Four Thursdays, October 26 and November 2, 9, and 16, 6:00–7:30 P.M. | The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, 1502 Alabama at LaBranch, 77004. Free street parking available.

The Middle East looms large in the world with violence, displacement, terror, destruction, and human rights violations making headlines. Four renowned international scholars will go behind the scenes to bring us up to date on the present situation, the history and the future.  They will also discuss how the United States is involved in the region and the lives of citizens of these countries.

October 26: Ussama Makdisi “Sectarianism and Coexistence in the Modern Middle East”
Ussama Makdisi is a professor of history and the first holder of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Arab Studies at Rice University.  He is the author of Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conquest of the Middle East; Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001; and the forthcoming The Ecumenical Frame: Coexistence and Sectarianism in the Modern Middle East (University of California Press). Dr. Makdisi earned a PhD from Princeton University and a BA from Wesleyan University.

November 2: Nathan Citino “Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in U.S.-Arab Relations”
Nathan Citino, associate professor of history at Rice University, is author of From Arab Nationalism to OPEC: Eisenhower, King Sa’ud, and the Making of US-Saudi Relations.  Dr. Citino has a PhD from Ohio State University and completed an Arab language program at the University of Chicago.  He has served on the board of editors of the International Journal of Middle East Studies and as associate editor of Diplomatic History.  His recent book, Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in US-Arab Relations, 1945-1967, was published by Cambridge University Press.

November 9: Abdel Razzaq Takriti “The Syrian Tragedy between Past and Present: Empires, Rulers, and Movements”
Professor Abdel Razzaq Takriti holds the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Arab History at the University of Houston.  He is the author of Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman (2016), and is the co-author and co-editor of the website The Palestinian Revolution (  Dr. Takriti holds a DPhil in Modern History from Oxford University and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

November 16: Idean Salehyan “From Al-Qaeda to ISIS: Syria, Iraq, and the Future of the Middle East”
Idean Salehyan is an associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas. His research focuses on civil and international conflict, transnational security threats, and the political consequences of environmental scarcity. Author of Rebels without Borders: Transnational Insurgencies in World Politics (2009), Dr. Salehyan received BA degrees in political science and Third World Studies and a PhD in political science from the University of California, San Diego.

Houston Collects: Contemporary Cool in River Oaks

Tuesday, November 7 and Wednesday, November 15, 1:00-3:30 P.M. | Addresses will be given to subscribers. Attendees should carpool where possible because street parking near the homes may be limited. Limited enrollment.

Our fall art tours include four homes, each lovingly renovated over time to showcase growing and dynamic collections of contemporary art.  All four homeowners have multiple children, are actively involved in Houston’s art community, were actively involved in the design and look of their very personal homes, and share a passion for entertaining and supporting artists.

November 7:  We will first visit the collection of a family who took a formal Regency-style home built in the early 1980s and brightened it up to fit their busy lifestyles as a family of five plus two dogs. The collection, begun in the late 1980s while the homeowners were in Georgia, has grown to include paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture from a wide variety of artists, international and local.

Built in 1932 and designated by the City of Houston as a Landmark, the second home was modified in the early 2000s to accommodate a growing art collection and a young family. The vibrant and eclectic collection features local luminaries, emerging artists, craft based work and nationally noted artists.  The owners have been recognized for their patronage and support of the Houston art community and are deeply involved in public art in the city.

November 15: Mr. and Mrs. Haywood Nelms moved into their Norman-inspired house, designed by New York architect Frank Forster, in 1929.  Creative touches throughout the house pay tribute to the original owners’ love of the Robin Hood story.  Many of the timbers, flooring and paneling were purchased in England and France, and are over 300 years old.  Juxtaposed against this traditional European background is a very contemporary art collection focused primarily on living Texas artists such as David McGee, Rachel Hecker, Aaron Parazette, and the Art Guys.  The collection also includes work by Rackstraw Downes, Donald Judd, Mickalene Thomas, Marilyn Minter, Chuck Close and Jeff Elrod. 

A short drive away, we will tour a home which Harold Farb built for himself in 1980.  The home has been renovated by the current owners to maintain its original dramatic mouldings and woodwork, juxtaposed with a highly edited and minimal interior. The updated home offers a unique combination of comfort and practicality for a young family along with a defined setting for art. The art collection focuses on emerging to blue-chip artists, with here and there a little gold-leaf chicken wire and LED display to add an element of surprise.

Hunger in Houston: Working to End It

Three Wednesdays, 11:30 A.M.-1:00 P.M., September 27, Beacon Day Center, 1212 Prairie Street, 77002; October 4, H-E-B Grocery Store, 5895 San Felipe at Fountain View, 77057; October 11, Houston Food Bank, 535 Portwall Street, 77029

This course will introduce us to remarkable people who work to end hunger in Houston. We will tour their facilities and hear their stories.

The numbers relating to food insecurity are staggering: over 749,000 people in Harris County went hungry in 2014. In the Houston Independent School District, 76 percent of students get free or reduced-cost lunches. In the midst of the wealth, energy, diversity, and philanthropy of our city, there are nevertheless people who live with hunger.

September 27: ENDING HUNGER. Rachel Kimbro, professor of sociology and fellow of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, will provide an overview. We will meet three leaders in the effort to end hunger in Houston:
Barbara Bronstein is the founder and president of Second Servings of Houston, a prepared-food rescue organization that oversees the transfer of food from regulated businesses such as hotels, arenas, and cafeterias to non-profit meal providers, thereby redirecting perfectly edible food away from landfills and toward people who need it. While we enjoy a “rescued lunch” provided by Second Servings, Ms. Bronstein will discuss the services, mission, and inspiration behind her organization.

Lisa Helfman is the founder and board chair of Brighter Bites, which distributes fresh produce to schools and community centers. Every week each participating family takes home two grocery bags of food, which provide 50 to 60 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables—and the recipes and tips needed to turn the produce into nutritious meals and snacks. Ms. Helfman will describe her group’s success in Houston and expansion to other cities.

Mike Puccio is the chief operating officer of the Beacon, our host and the co-sponsor of this session. The Beacon provides essential services—medical, legal, housing, social—and meals, showers, and laundry to the homeless who seek to return to stable housing. Mr. Puccio will lead a tour of the Beacon Day Center.

October 4: AT THE GROCERY STORE. Winell Herron, vice president for public affairs, diversity, and environmental affairs at H-E-B, will take us behind the scenes at one of the company’s largest Houston stores. We will see what happens to the unsold excess food and learn about H-E-B’s recycling and meal programs. Lunch will be available.

October 11: AT THE FOOD BANK. Brian Greene, president and CEO of the Houston Food Bank, will be our guide. He will join us for lunch and discussion of food insecurity in the 18 counties served by the food bank, which distributed 79 million nutritious meals last year and was named Food Bank of the Year in 2015.

Newport: History Preserved

Thursday, October 26–Monday, October 30

Join us in Newport, Rhode Island, during the fall high season for a tour of the architecture, arts, and history of one of the most famous summer resorts in America. 

We will explore several carefully preserved buildings from the Colonial Period through the Gilded Age, focusing on the best examples of each. Highlights will include lunch at a private house on Bellevue Avenue designed by Ogden Codman Jr., a cocktail reception at a beautiful house designed by McKim, Mead & White in the historic Ocean Drive district, and cocktails and dinner at a private yacht club.

Don Friary, director emeritus of Historic Deerfield and an authority on New England history and architecture, will accompany us.  We will have exclusive use of a beautifully restored 18th century



Fall 2018 brochures are out! Please let us know if you did not receive one and we will be happy to send one to you.

Registration is now open. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


The interest list for the fall and spring study tours is also now open. If you are interested in traveling with the Houston Seminar to Natchez in the fall of 2018 or Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy.


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. Please contact the registrar if you would like to be wait listed for this course. 


Have a great summer. We look forward to seeing you this fall!


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.