Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Roadtrip: Beaumont & Galveston

by Robert Boyd

I went to Beaumont with a specific goal, to see the Robert Pruitt exhibit, and with a general goal, to see what the Art Museum of Southeast Texas was all about. I'm used to big city museums. The only small city museums I am familiar with are the Portland Art Museum and the Tampa Museum of Art. But compared to Beaumont, those two cities are giants (Portland has 580 thousand, Tampa has 336 thousand and Beaumont has 119 thousand). Portland and Tampa nonetheless had eccentric museums where you could see how one collector or a small group of local collectors influenced the collection. If this is the case with AMSET, it wasn't obvious.

The museum is located on Main St. in downtown Beaumont. It's long been said Houston's downtown is a ghost town on weekends. That's become less true over time, but it's not an unjust criticism. But Houston is Manhattan compared to the desolation I encountered in downtown Beaumont on Saturday afternoon. Main St. is a broad boulevard. On one side was the Beaumont Civic Center and on the other was AMSET and the Texas Energy Museum. I parked in the vast, empty Civic Center parking lot. There were no crosswalks--they were unnecessary because there was no traffic. For a place that is the civic heart of the city, it was eerily deserted.