The Watchful Eye: A WITS Student Reading

Posted May 15, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

WITS students visit cultural venues such as The Heritage Society year-roundJoin Writers in the Schools (WITS) and the Menil Collection for an evening of student readings, Thursday, May 23 at 7:00 PM at  the Menil Collection. The Watchful Eye feature the poems and prose of WITS students, grades K-12, inspired by works exhibited at the Menil Collection.

A collaboration that began in 1989, WITS and the Menil Collection combined their knowledge and resources to create a program that uses art to construct a dialogue that inspires creative writing in Houston’s youth.

When: Thursday, May 23rd, at 7:00 PM

Where: The Menil Collection, 1533 Sul Ross

Free admission, open to the public

Scattered Blossoms: Poets on Twombly

Posted May 9, 2013 & filed under Notebook.


For 20 years WITS and the Menil Collection have worked closely in a project that weaves together art and writing, and the experience has been evocative for students and WITS writers alike. WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler is organizing an event on Sunday at 2pm in the Menil’s Twombly Gallery for poets who have been inspired by the abstract art of Cy Twombly. Many of these writers have taught with WITS in the past. Join us for this free event and hear new work by:

Joseph Campana

Jane Creighton

Robin Davidson

Christa Forster

Peter Hyland

Jonathan Moody

Laura Mullen

Robin Reagler

Fran Sanders

Charlie Scott

Randall Watson

Tria Wood

Dom Zuccone

Outdoor Poetry Events on April 20th

Posted April 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Come out and enjoy lovely weather and superb poetry this Saturday, April 20th.  WITS students will participate in events across the city.

image006An incredible line-up of WITS students will be reading their poems and stories on the Menil Entrance Stage at 12 noon as part of the Menil Community & Houston Indie Book Festival. Bring a blanket and stay the whole afternoon!  This annual family-oriented festival features music, film, yoga, children’s story time, and food trucks! WITS writers also will be leading FREE writing tours of the Menil Collection at 1 PM and 3 PM.

66445_authorxaviergarzIn addition to the WITS reading at the Menil Community & Houston Indie Book Festival, several WITS students will read with award-winning author Monica Brown, whose books include Tito PuenteMambo King and Clara and the Curandera, at Discovery Green as part of the Día de los niños/Día de los libros celebration from 12 noon to 2 PM.  This event is also free and open to the public.  It will be kicked off by Houston’s new Poet Laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Meta-FourLast but not least, our Meta-Four youth performance poets will be making appearances at several parks, including the Park at Palm Center, George T. Nelson Park, and MacGregor Park, as part of the AWE Celebration to promote arts, wellness, and the environment.



Young Authors @ the Menil Community Arts & Houston Indie Book Festival

Posted April 17, 2013 & filed under Notebook.


Please join us this Saturday, April 20th, at noon to support young authors at the annual Writers in the Schools BLOOMS reading event.  BLOOMS is part of the Houston Young Writers Reading Series, and these young writers were chosen from thousands of children across the city of Houston.  Children in grades K-12 will read original poems, stories, and essays on the lawn of the Menil Collection. Please clap loudly for these brave voices!

We invite you to bring a blanket and a lawn chair and spend the entire afternoon with us enjoying poetry, music, film, and yoga at this festival for the whole family. For more information about the festival and a timeline of events, please visit the Menil Collection website.  See you at 12 noon on Saturday!

To The Lady in White Cloth

Posted January 21, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

I saw your photo.
You were sitting in a police car;
you were going to jail.
You were strange
because you were not crying
when I saw you.
Just eating in a white
restaurant, that should not
have been big trouble.
You were fighting for your rights,
your rights as a citizen of these United States.
I know your dream is peace,
is calm,
is equality.
Maybe your children
wait for you at home;
maybe your sister needs
help with the cooking;
maybe your dear husband
wants to give you a birthday surprise.
But everything was broken
by the foolish rule about skin color.
Now, because of your courage,
your dream has come true.
Our dream has come true.
Everyone is equal in this free country,
whatever their skin color.
And we even have
an African American president
in our great country.
Congratulations, madam,
you helped to make our history.
You are successful beyond your dream.

by Tianli, 10th grade

Published in the 2011 The Watchful Eye Anthology, inspired by Civil Rights-Era Photographs at the Menil Collection

Students Writing at the Menil

Students Writing at the Menil

With These Hands

Posted December 17, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Menna signing her poem at the Watchful Eye reading at the Menil Collection

With these hands, I will meet a famous person and shake their hand.
With these hands, I will pet cute puppies.
With these hands, I will work hard at my job.
With these hands, I will hug my friends.
With these hands, I will buy furniture for my own house.
With these hands, I will take pictures in New York City.
With these hands, I will talk with my friends using sign language.

by Menna, 5th grade

True Colors

Posted November 5, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

You see paintings shaped in upright rectangles.
But I see stars and a moon and also a blue sky.
There was a shooting star.
I made a wish to get everything purple.
It came true!
Now I am inspired to look at art and see
its true colors.
by Senyea, 4th grade

From Writing at the Menil, a 22-year old collaboration between Writers in the Schools (WITS) and the Menil Collection

WITS Students to Read at the Menil Collection this Saturday

Posted October 30, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Poems for a Quarter Century
Saturday, November 3, 2012

7:00 p.m. Free Public Program

Sasha West, poet, professor, and literary editor, will curate an evening of poetry readings about art and artists whose work hangs in the Menil Collection, including poems by Writers in the Schools students who visited the museum through the Writing at the Menil program. The Menil Collection is celebrating its 25th year anniversary with special events and programs.

Students reading art-inspired works at The Watchful Eye Reading in May at the Menil

Rothko Chapel

Posted October 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Rothko Chapel

I think they were praying

for their dads, moms, brothers

and sisters. I think somebody

was praying for his mother

because she died. There are

white walls. The paintings are blue, black,

brown, and dark blue. The ceiling is

rough like the cement on the streets.

One painting looks likes clouds.

There is a train in another.

There is a cemetery. There are

six people burying someone.

I think the cemetery represents

where the artist that painted

these pictures died.

-by Eliseo, 3rd grade

Happy 109th Birthday to Mark Rothko! Our Writing at the Menil Program and the students who have walked through the Rothko Chapel have been continually inspired.

Scenes from Summer Camp

Posted June 21, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

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The Creative Writing Camp is at the half-way point.  Field trips this year are to Rice University, the Menil Collection, and Glassell School/Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Here are a few snapshots by WITS Writer Nancy Pearson.

Students Will Rock the Menil

Posted May 11, 2012 & filed under Notebook.


On Thursday, May 17th, at 7pm, Writers in the Schools (WITS) students will share their art-inspired creative writing at the Menil Collection. This reading, called The Watchful Eye, will feature stories, essays, and poems that come out of a collaborative project called Writing at the Menil. The event is free, and the public is welcome.

Free Menil Community Festival 2012

Posted April 12, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Join us at the Menil Community Festival.  Here’s all the info!

The Menil Collection museum and a group of surrounding nonprofit arts organizations come together [this Saturday, April 14th] to host a free afternoon of art and entertainment that will extend across the Menil campus from West Alabama to Richmond Avenue from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Highlighting the diversity of the Menil neighborhood arts community, the festival will include films and performances, from chamber music to literary readings, performances and workshops.

All day events, include: Aurora Picture Show Open House and Cinema Raising; Houston Center for Photography’s Collaborations IX Print Sale and Julie Blackmon: The Power of Now and Other Tales from Home; Bastienne Schmidt: Home Stills; Priya Kambli: Color Falls Down exhibitions; Houston Indie Book Festival; Watercolor Art Society’s outdoor art fair, sale and indoor international exhibit and demonstrations; in addition to the regular exhibits from the Dan Flavin Installation, The Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel.

Writers in the Schools will host 30-minute creative writing tours at the Menil Collection at noon, 12:30, 1 and 1:30 p.m.

The family-friendly tours will depart from the Menil Foyer. Writers will use specific works of art as inspiration for fun writing exercises. Participants can share their work with the group and walk away with new poetry and fiction masterpieces.

Performance and activity schedule:
11 a.m. – Music from TALA – Erin Rodgers
1 p.m. – Valerie Hartzell, classical guitarist presented by the Rothko Chapel
2 p.m. – The Territory screening by SWAMP
3 p.m. – Family Drum Circle with Sam Dinkins III presented by Da Camera

Houston Indie Book Festival and Inprint readings:
11:30 a.m. – Laurie Clements Lambeth
12:00 p.m. – Ana María Rodríguez
12:30 p.m. – Justin Sirois
2:00 p.m. – Andrea White
2:30 p.m. – Andrew Porter

Support WITS: Buy ticket to see RED @ Alley Theatre

Posted February 28, 2012 & filed under Notebook.


Writers in the Schools (WITS) is excited to partner with the Alley Theatre’s $10Tix program and the Menil Collection.  Please support WITS by buying a $10 ticket and bringing a donation of crayons, colored pencils, or markers to the production of RED by Josh Logan.  The $10 tickets are available for the 2:30 PM performance on Saturday, March 3rd.  The tickets are available beginning at 11 am the same day.  There is limited availability, so get tickets early.

Scheduled on the first Saturday matinee of each Hubbard Stage play, the $10Tix program is the Alley’s effort to generate in-kind donations for partnering social non-profit organizations.  The Alley offers $10 Tixs  (limit two per person) to patrons who bring in the item(s) requested by the participating organization. This offer is available in-person at the box office, on the day of the performance only – limited number of seats available. Cash or check only.

Thank you, Alley Theatre!

Breath of Life

Posted July 21, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Breath of Life

(inspired by the Upside Down exhibit at the Menil Collection)

The cold beauty of snow

fills the enormous Arctic.

The lit-up sun glistens

in the snow.  I fall down

in the angel-white snow.

Lost somewhere in the snow

I hear the beautiful snow owls

hooting.  It’s so relaxing being

upside down in the breath

of life.

By Mary Therese, age 9

The Museum of Tomorrow

Posted May 25, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) takes pride in its groundbreaking relationships with local museums. For over two decades, we have fostered important collaborations between writers and artists in places such as the Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston, Orange Show, Blaffer Gallery, Contemporary Arts Museum-Houston, Museum of Printing History, Rothko Chapel, the Houston Children’s Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Craft.

We welcome AAM (American Association of Museums) participants from across the United States to the 105th Gathering to Focus on Museums Meeting that is taking place in Houston, TX, from May 22-25th.  The theme of this year’s annual meeting and expo is the “Museum of Tomorrow”and the tag line is “Where Ideas Live.” We love that!

WITS writer Olga Feliciano and Trey Demas from High School Ahead Academy view photographs from the exhibit "The Whole World Was Watching" on view at the Menil until September 25th. Photo by Yvonne Feece.

Writers in the Schools can testify to the crucial role that artists and writers play in co-creating innovative spaces “where ideas live.”  Every year we bring thousands of young writers into museums for inspiration.  A beautiful example of collaboration was last week’s The Watchful Eye Reading at the Menil Collection where WITS students read aloud poetry and prose inspired by the Civil Rights exhibit The Whole World Was Watching. Award-winning journalist and author Mignette Patrick Dorsey delivered a moving keynote speech, and many people in the community were moved to tears by the young people’s words about the black-and-white photographs they had seen in the museum.

We applaud AAM for bringing together more than 5,000 museum leaders to brainstorm the “museum of tomorrow.”  For more information about the presence of WITS in museums, please visit our website.

by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

“The Whole World Was Watching” Exhibit Opens this Saturday

Posted March 4, 2011 & filed under Notebook.


The Whole World Was Watching, a photography exhibit tracing the Civil Rights Movement, opens this Saturday at the Menil Collection and The African American Library at the Gregory School.  The collected works from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil portray a vivid and haunting  account of what it meant to be an African American living in the turbulent South, fighting  Jim Crow segregation. Reverend William Lawson, a forerunner of Civil Rights activism in Houston, will speak on the Menil bookstore deck; other highlights include songs by Heritage of Zion Quartet, music by Tierney Malone, and exhibit tours.

What: The Whole World Was Watching: Civil Rights Era Photographs from Edmund Carpenter and Adelaide de Menil

When: Saturday, March 5 through September 25

Where: Receptions 2-4 p.m. at The African American Library at the Gregory School; 4-6 p.m. at the Menil bookstore.

Cost: Free and open to the public

Additional info: The Whole World Was Watching launches “Freedom Now Project,” Houston’s commemoration of  sit-ins, marches, and boycotts that changed the social landscape of the South and help shaped the history of  the Civil Rights across the country. WITS joins other nonprofits  to present a variety of educational programs, lectures,  activities, and events leading up to and extending beyond the May 16th  premier of the PBS documentary Freedom Riders.

For more information, visit the Freedom Now website and follow the conversation on Facebook.

Menil Reading Tonight at 7:00 PM

Posted May 20, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools and The Menil Collection will present The Watchful Eye, a reading in response to the Torres-Garcia and Cattelan exhibitions, tonight at 7:00 PM in the museum foyer. The reading will feature both WITS students and University of Houston students from their undergraduate literary magazine Glass Mountain. Join us for a night of creative writing inspired by art, including the poem below.

The Boy on the Roof

Maybe he was flying
in a helicopter
or a plane
and he jumped down
by parachute.
Or maybe
he got lost in the attic
and found a trap door
going up
instead of down.

By Camille, 3rd grade

Menil Community Arts Festival

Posted March 11, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

The Second Annual Menil Community Arts Festival will be held this Saturday, March 13th, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Writers in the Schools will be leading creative writing tours of The Menil Collection every half hour from 12:00 Noon – 2:00 PM.

There will be workshops, concerts, art exhibits and poetry readings as part of this event. Arts organizations on the Menil campus will provide activities for all ages. The participants include:

Aurora Picture Show

Art Colony Association

Da Camera

Houston Center for Photography


The Rothko Chapel

Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP)


The Menil Collection

The Watercolor Arts Society

Writers in the Schools

Click here for more information.