The art crowd consists of 200 visual artists, gallery owners, curators, architects, historians, writers, critics, musicians, dancers, patrons, students, hangers-on, and dilettanti who bump into each other year after year at the same art openings, performances, parties, and the same ten restaurants. There is much running around in packs, a hedge against loneliness as well as intimacy; sometimes two eventually pair off and marry, or friends quarrel and avoid each other, finally growing friendly again, because there aren't that many people to talk to, the cast of characters is so limited. Every once in a while a new curator or artistic celebrity moves to town and is feted, courted, scrutinized, privately dissected. Every so often, too, one of the regulars, like a Chekov character who keeps sighing, "I must go to Moscow," actually picks himself up after years of threats to do so and moves to New York or Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. These defectors later return for visits, wistfully reporting that they have never been able to find anything like that warm camaraderie of the Houston art crowd. On the plus side, the art scene here is exceptionally cohesive, supportive and loyal, on the minus, this close-knit courtesy has so far stifled the development of honest, tough-minded public criticism, which means some local artists are never challenged to go beyond producing half-baked work.This is from Phillip Lopate's essay "Houston Hide-and-Seek" published in Against Joie de Vivre: Personal Essays (1989).