Art Is a Universal Language of Inspiration To Be Cherished

Franci Neely
4 min readApr 18, 2023

Romero Britto said, “Art is too important not to share” — and the Brazilian artist couldn’t be more accurate. Art is a precious commodity that I feel everyone should have access to. That’s why I support various museums in the Houston area and I am one of many people who are working to expand Houston’s arts and culture community. From The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to The Menil Collection and Rice University’s Moody Center for the Arts, I am proud to lend my support to these culturally nourishing hubs.

I have not only provided funding to bring certain pieces to the Houston community, but also invested in programming to enrich the lives of those around me. I have had the opportunity to travel the world, an experience that has opened my eyes to scents, sights, and extraordinary experiences I could never have imagined if I hadn’t set out on a quest to visit every country on the planet by 2025. It’s something few people set out to do and it’s certainly a bucket list dream I never take for granted.

Some of my favorite moments in life have existed around art. I think about my earliest childhood days. I didn’t grow up going to museums or really submerging myself in art. It’s something that came later for me in my life, but once I got to experience the essence of art, my life was forever enhanced. I have gotten to visit some of the most interesting museums in the world, including the National Museum of Cameroon. I had an exquisite time there learning about Cameroonian music, culture, and traditions. My guide even played a royal piano for me during my visit there in early 2022. It’s no surprise that I am thrilled to see a piece of Cameroon in Houston at The Menil Collection. Art of the Cameroon Grassfields: A Living Heritage in Houston, is now on display through July 9. As with all of The Menil’s exhibits, it’s free and open to the public, which is something that is very important to me.

I am on the board of trustees for The Menil Collection and it’s a museum that continues to fuel interest in art through meaningful exhibitions and community programming.

I also sit on the boards of Moody Center for the Arts and I aided in founding the Houston Cinema Arts Society. It was named one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the world by MovieMaker magazine and anyone who has attended it could easily see why. Our 2022 festival offered a thought-provoking collection of films to ignite and delight the imagination and open new conversations on timely topics affecting humanity today.

The festival is always packed with people who share a fellow appreciation for the arts. While of course there are screenings, it extends far beyond that. Over the years, myriad Hollywood stars have turned out, including Robert Redford, Isabella Rossellini, Tilda Swinton, Shirley MacLaine and Ethan Hawke, among many others. Invigorating the film community in Texas is something that is important to me. Texas has long been an iconic backdrop for films, including Terms of Endearment and Urban Cowboy. It will be nice to see Texas in the spotlight as more incentives come to the state for the filming industry to flourish.

The arts must be nurtured on all levels and it starts in our communities. We can all do more to promote the arts by supporting local artists, checking out nearby gallery exhibitions, and giving our youth more opportunities to make and see art at younger and younger ages.

A life without art would be dull and lacking any level of vibrance. While the COVID-19 pandemic was horrendous, like all things in life, there were lessons to be learned. It taught me and so many others how vital art is in our lives. When our cities were being shut down, books were being opened up. Art museums and galleries began offering virtual tours and programming. Musicians performed concerts on Zoom and it got us through some of our darkest days. Think about the first time you laid eyes on your favorite painting or sculpture. Now imagine if you could bottle that feeling and send it out on the sea to reach others. We each have a favorite painting or artist. Laying eyes on the “Mona Lisa” or Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece “Starry Night” for the first time is a sensation that can’t be matched.

There is something to be said about enhancing our brains and bringing us all closer together. It exhilarates me to know there is art being created right now that we haven’t even seen yet that will evoke some intense feeling within us. Whether that’s in Cameroon or the Louvre or in Houston, we don’t know. That’s why investing in the arts across the globe will always yield a priceless return.