Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Houston Lyceum Lectures (1800s) Revisited at Contemporary Arts Museum

Houston, TX—The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston hosts a two-part lecture series based on one of Houston’s earliest cultural institutions, The Houston Lyceum. Organized by artist/curator Andrea Grover for No Zoning: Artists Engage Houston, this program invites contemporary experts to lecture on identical topics to those of the early Lyceum, but from a contemporary vantage point. Dr. Mike Fain, Director of Forensics, University of Houston Forensic Society will present Eloquence on September 10, 6:30 p.m. The Cause and Laws of Storms is presented by Lew Fincher, President of the Houston Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, and Lance Wood, the Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service (NWS) League City, TX office, on October 1, 6:30 p.m.

“I wanted to create a series of public programs for No Zoning that would give insight into the development and character of Houstonians. By exploring these topics from a contemporary perspective, we can ask ourselves how these interests informed Houston's first citizens, and continue to be visible in today's culture,” says organizer Andrea Grover.

“The objects of this association shall be to diffuse knowledge among its members, intelligence, and information, by a library, lectures on various subjects, and by discussion of such questions as may elicit useful information and produce improvement in the art of public speaking.”
—The Houston Lyceum constitution, 1854

The Houston Lyceum was a cultural organization founded in 1854 (when the city had a population of about 2000) as a precursor to the first public library, and a means to centralize educational resources. The Lyceum (which was inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia based debating society, “Junto”) had several shorter-lived precursors including the Philosophical Society of Texas, and The Houston Mechanics’ Institute. Major activities of the Houston Lyceum took place between 1854-1886, and ceased after the first free public library was opened in 1904. During its heyday, the Lyceum held weekly evening debates at the Harris County Courthouse and later Market House (City Hall), structured as two teams of three that would be assigned opposing viewpoints to argue on topics such as “Is wealth more to be desired than mental culture?”; “Has the credit system been more beneficial than injurious to society?”; “Does the individual form his own character?”; “Are works of art more pleasing to the eye than works of nature?”; and “Is free trade the best policy of nations?”. At the end of each meeting, a decision was made (affirmative or negative) on the given topic and recorded in the minutes.

Houston Lyceum Schedule

All events are free and take place at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston located at 5216 Montrose Blvd. Houston, Texas 77006-6547. tel: (713) 284-8250, www.camh.org.

September 10, 6:30pm: “Eloquence”
Presented by Dr. Mike Fain (Original lecture given W.T. Bond, date unknown) The New Oxford American Dictionary defines eloquence as “fluent or persuasive speaking.” Find out more about the art of public speaking from one of Houston’s leading orators.

Dr. Mike Fain has won more than 150 national speech awards. The former coach of the Rice University speech and debate team, he currently is Director of Forensics for the University of Houston. Mr. Fain holds a JD and an MBA from the University of Houston.

October 1, 6:30pm: “The Cause and Laws of Storms”
Presented by Lew Fincher and Lance Wood (Original lecture given by C.G. Forshey in 1855) Weather is more than small talk in Houston, and its science has long been critical to residents of the Gulf Coast region. Join Lew Fincher and Lance Woods, two regional experts on hurricanes and forecasting to learn more about the science behind storms.

Lew Fincher is the President of the Houston Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, and co-founder of Hurricane Consulting, Inc. Lew is a hurricane specialist, and hurricane historian, who has assisted the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA), with a focus on Texas Hurricane History. One of the most honored assignments he was asked to be part of was the 2005 National Weather Service Hurricane Katrina Assessment Team, as the lone non-government member of the 8-person team. Later that year, he also assisted the Houston/Galveston Area Council’s Hurricane Rita Evacuation Taskforce as its hurricane information resource, as it looked into the problem areas that occurred. He has taught workshops and been a Keynote Speaker at many conferences, including the Texas, Florida, and the National Hurricane Conferences, where he also serves as a member of the Planning Committee. Mr. Fincher also is a member of the Galveston County Historical Commission and a Life Member, and former Board Member of the Galveston Historical Foundation. He has served both as an information source and on camera spokesman on the subject of tropical cyclones and the history of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin for many different media outlets in print, and television.

Lance Wood is the Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in League City, TX. Prior to this position, he was a senior forecaster at the League City office. He began his career with the NWS in El Paso, TX, in 1994. Lance became a forecaster at the NWS Lake Charles, LA, office in 1995, before coming to the Houston/Galveston area in 1998. In addition to his NWS experience, he worked for Duke Energy in Houston as a trade floor meteorologist, where he provided weather forecasts to support energy trading. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University; receiving both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Meteorology. He is married and has three children.

Image: Market House (1885) hosted regular meetings of the Houston Lyceum (courtesy City of Houston)

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