MATCH, the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, is at the heart of Midtown Houston’s transformation
In a city that covers more than 650 square miles, Houston doesn’t rank high on the list of dense “urban” cities like Chicago, New York, Boston, or San Francisco. But Houston is transforming rapidly. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Houston’s Midtown neighborhood.
Midtown Houston was designated as a Cultural Arts and Entertainment District in 2012 by the Texas Commission on the Arts. (Did you know that?) Since then Midtown Houston has transformed itself, block by block, from a low density mix of offices, small retailers, single family homes and small apartment buildings to a new urban neighborhood with high-density housing. Today, nearly 10,000 Houstonians now live in Midtown – a 50% increase in just five short years.
As a city without restrictive zoning, Houston can’t directly dictate what goes where. Instead, the city, regional agencies (like Houston Metro), private/public partnerships and nonprofit organizations have an out-sized role in influencing the course of redevelopment.
Without question Houston’s light rail system, which connects Downtown with the Texas Med Center (and beyond) was the first milestone in the Midtown’s dramatic transformation. Rail has had an incalculable effect on attracting major redevelopment and business to the Midtown area.
In fact, that applies to us — one of the main reasons we selected Dr. Gary Brewton’s office location is it’s one block from the MetroRail Museum District Station, which makes it very convenient for people working downtown, Midtown, in the Med Center or in-between to hop on the train to visit Dr. Brewton and go back to their homes and offices without having to get in their cars.
But housing and transportation alone doesn’t make a great, walkable urban neighborhood – arts and culture are just as important.
Fortunately, some far thinking arts organizations were working on the problem as far back as 2003, when they first met and decided to create a non-profit organization to raise funds to build a new performance space. Their concept from the start was to make a home for creative theater, music and other performances that weren’t being served by the big cultural institutions in the Theater District.
This is how MATCH (the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston) was formed: Emily Todd led the effort to recruit a strong board of directors and Jewett Consulting stepped into the project management role. A major milestone was the first major donation (of $1 million) by philantropist Michael Zilkha. In time, MATCH would need to raise about $25 million for the project.
The MATCH organization chose to purchase a parking lot near the HCC/Ensemble MetroRail station (on Holman Avenue, in the heart of Midtown Houston) as the site of the new MATCH multi-purpose, multi-tenant facility. After getting the input of more than 40 groups as well as researching similar arts organizations around the country, the organization engaged Lake/Flato and Studio Red to build two buildings, North and South, on the site. The facility opened with its first production in October 2015.
The two MATCH buildings are connected by an open breezeway.
The South building is where you’ll find three rehearsal spaces (each with its own sprung dance floor), offices and a gallery space.
The North building is home to four theaters: Box 1, Box 2, Box 3 and Box 4 as well as ample dressing rooms and wardrobe storage. MATCH Box 4 is the largest, with a traditional stage and permanent seating for over 320 guests. MATCH Box 1 (painted white inside so it can double as a gallery space) and MATCH Box 3 (painted black inside) are smaller theaters with flexible seating and staging set on risers, while MATCH Box 2 is especially designed for dance productions. It has seating for nearly 160 and a sprung dance floor.
A quick trip to the MATCH Facebook page will give you an idea of the breadth of performances that take place there.
In a given week, there are dance and poetry performances, art gallery openings, theatrical plays, concerts talks and happenings from a wide range of cultural as well as visual and performing arts organizations, including :
- Catastrophic Theatre
- Diverse Works
- Foundation for Modern Music
- Houston Audubon
- Karla Bonoff
- Nick Jones
- PAIR Houston: Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees
- PMT Productions
- Popovich Comedy Pet Theater
- Raquel Cepeda Jazz Quartet
- River Oaks Chamber Orchestra
- Russian Cultural Center “Our Texas”
- Theater LaB Houston
- Zoe Keating
We salute the visionaries, volunteers, donors and city staff who helped bring MATCH to Midtown Houston. It’s an incredible cultural gift to a changing neighborhood and a changing city.
To learn more about cultural events in Houston Midtown, visit the Houston Midtown Arts Calendar produced in conjunction with ArtsHound.