If the name, Lubbock, Texas, conjures up visions of wide open spaces and cowboys, a visit to this West Texas town will be a revelation. Closer to New Mexico than to Dallas, Austin or San Antonio, Lubbock offers an impressive arts scene – from the vibrantly decorated dining room at La Diosa Cellars restaurant, to live performances at Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts (LHUCA).
Where else will you find paintings on winery production room walls, a university-based art collection named among the nation’s top 10 public art collections or a one-of-a-kind museum honoring a legendary musician? There’s even Western-inspired art inside the gorgeous visitors’ center at the National Ranching Heritage Center.
Whether you prefer visual or performance artistry, you’ll find plenty of options in Lubbock, including the 10 listed here.
Buddy Holly Center
The Buddy Holly Center — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray
No trip to Lubbock would be complete without touring the Buddy Holly Center. See the Gibson guitar used to record his final songs, and his glasses, from Faosa in Mexico. They were found in Clear Lake, Iowa where his plane crashed during a winter storm, also killing Ritchie Valens and Jiles Perry ‘Big Bopper’ Richardson, after their legendary performance at the Surf Ballroom.
Also see Holly’s 1958 Ariel Cyclone Motorcycle, and displays of wood and leather work he created in his spare time. Next door, his childhood residence, the J.I. Allison House, is where "That’ll Be the Day" was written.
First Friday Art Trail
First Friday Art Trail — Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock
These wildly popular events have placed Lubbock at the center of the Texas art scene. With an ever-changing array of exhibits that reflects every artistic medium, these free, self-guided public events attract collectors, artists, other community members and visitors.
Primarily occurring at art centers, museums, galleries and businesses throughout the Lubbock Cultural District, events take place from 6-9 p.m., rain or shine, on the first Friday of every month. Grab a map and explore on foot, or ride a First Friday Trolley along the downtown route.
Texas Tech University System Public Art Program
Public Art Program at the Texas Tech University System — Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock
Beginning in 1998, the Board of Regents committed one percent of the budget, for every major capital improvement, to purchase public art. More than one hundred works created by some of today's leading artists comprise this beautiful collection.
The Public Art Review, a leading journal in the field, named this one of the nation's top 10 public art collections, with sculptures, paintings, ceramics and more displayed throughout the Texas Tech system. A walking tour brochure is also available.
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Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts
Louis Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray
A centerpiece of Lubbock’s creative vibe, the LHUCA – the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts – offers classes, workshops and programs in the best-equipped clay studio amid the Texas High Plains. In addition, visitors can appreciate the diverse visual and performance arts on display at this unusual arts facility, including four individual galleries that showcase the work of local, national and international artists.
LHUCA also hosts the Helen DeVitt Jones print studio, plus live performances by groups such as El Ballet Folklorico Nuestra Herencia and Flatlands Dance Theatre.
Charles Adams Gallery and Studio Project
Charles Adams Gallery — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray
With more than 1,800 square feet of exhibit space, CASP 5&J Gallery is one of the most popular destinations within the downtown Lubbock Cultural District, where affectionate canines may greet visitors. It's home to many permanent displays with pieces by renowned artists, and temporary art collections that rotate every three to four weeks.
A privately owned nonprofit, the Charles Adams Studio Project clusters artists amid the District with four live/work studios open to the public during First Friday Art Trail monthly events, allowing visitors and individual artists to interact.
Robert Bruno Steel House
Robert Bruno Steel House — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray
After Robert Bruno moved to Lubbock in 1971, he began teaching in Texas Tech University’s school of architecture. Two years later he started work on The Steel House, whose 2,200-square-foot living space is wrapped in weathering steel.
The 110-ton structure atop four hollow legs, offers breathtaking views of Lake Ransom Canyon. Uncompleted at the time of his death in 2008, the structure features unusually shaped windows, natural wood and multiple levels. If you love architecture, stop by this otherworldly structure in a residential neighborhood.
Winery art at McPherson Cellars
McPherson Cellars — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray
The tasting room at McPherson Cellars sports a dark-hued curved wall decorated with framed, brightly colored posters that each depict a different U.S. national park. Upholstered chairs and a wall-mounted bench full of pillows complement the art.
Metalwork along the edge of tasting tables resembles designs from ancient cultures and a floor-to-ceiling pebbled wall adds visual depth. But this is only the beginning of artistic flair at the winery. In fact, additional bright-hued paintings line walls inside the production room.
Ballet Lubbock — Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock
Through nearly five decades, this pre-professional ballet school has provided a classical ballet curriculum for local students. Each September through May, this diverse student population learns the importance of creativity, discipline, focus and commitment – in dance and beyond.
Public performances throughout the year showcase student skills and those of world-renowned artists, with programs that have included The Nutcracker, Cinderella, choreographers’ concerts and a dinner theater format. Check the website for upcoming events.
Lubbock Moonlight Musicals
Lubbock Moonlight Musicals — Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock
The amphitheatre in Lubbock's Mackenzie Park comes alive with outdoor musical theater each summer, and enormous Broadway productions take place at the Civic Center during spring and autumn. See shows such as Sister Act, Peter Pan, or Shrek Jr.
Traveling with kids who love music? Attend a performance by Moonlight Directions, an audition-only youth ensemble that showcases the vocal and dance talents of local youths who are working to polish their performance skills.
Cactus Theater — Photo courtesy of Lisa Waterman Gray
Unused for years, the Cactus Theater has become a popular live performance and movie theater in Lubbock’s Depot Entertainment District, ever since Don Caldwell and other local investors refurbished it during the early ’90s.
New murals on two walls, by artist John Russell Thomasson, depict the theater’s West Texas heritage, while the original balcony and stage have been lovingly restored. Inside the old projection booth, new spotlights and state-of-the-art sound and light features enhance every performance.