As Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, it can pride itself in fulfilling its mission to define a society by the arts it supports. Public Relations Manager Marcus Powers says that "The mission of SPA is a simple one, to bring the world's best performing arts to Houston audiences. SPA believes that the arts are crucial to a livable city, and offer enrichment, growth, and pleasure for all citizens. We aim to bring performances that create opportunities for the discovery, development, and celebration of the arts in whatever form." Performances by artists and companies from around the world complement Houston's thriving world of theater, dance, and music.
Beginning its first season with Carol Channing in Hello Dolly, SPA has over the years brought more than a thousand leading performers and ensembles from around the world to Houston.
The 2015-16 season includes music and performances for all tastes. Highlights include: solo violin performances by Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang, "maverick organist" and composer Cameron Carpenter and talented young pianist Charlie Albright; the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; military pageantry, haunting bagpipes and Highland dancing with the Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes and Drums of the Scots Guards; the Malpaso Dance Company from Havana, and Le Compagnie Hervé Koubi combining dance and martial arts performance.
Pre-performance discussions in the Arts Talks series are led by experts and artists. SPA also has a regular program of arts education, including dance and music master classes for Houston area students with the performers each season. The H-E-B Performance Preludes showcases the talent of young artists, school programs and community groups through presentations and performances in the lobby before the main performance. SPA programs also offer a wealth of resources for local students and educators with student matinees, meet and greet with visiting artists, art contests, study guides, teacher workshops and discounted tickets for educators.
A major annual outreach effort is the popular Taste of SPA, which raises money for education programs and community engagement. Powers says, "For the cost of a ticket, those that attend Taste of SPA will find more than a dozen of Houston's best restaurants in one place, all offering samples of their signature dishes. On top of that, we gather some of Houston's most dynamic and successful chefs for a round table on the Houston food scene. It's a night that offers something for the foodie in everyone, and raises money for an excellent cause. This year's Taste of SPA will be in the fall, with full details coming late this summer."
Like every other arts organization, SPA relies on volunteers, particularly for education programs and community outreach. Volunteers in turn gain an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the world of contemporary dance and music. And they contribute, says Powers, to "keeping performing arts an important and dynamic part of our community."