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Workshop and Diversity Luncheon also part of 2016 conference schedule.
By Brandon Wolf
For the past 15 years, LGBTs and their allies attending the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation conference have met at an LGBT reception. This year, the conference, entitled “Past Forward,” was held in Houston, and Preservation Texas hosted the reception at Sambuca Restaurant in the Rice Hotel.
The Trust is a privately funded, nonprofit organization based in Washington DC that works in the field of historic preservation in the United States. The member-supported organization was founded in 1949 by congressional charter to support the preservation of America’s diverse historic buildings, neighborhoods, and heritage through its programs, resources, and advocacy.
Attendees from around the country attended the reception, which was held in the historic Rice Hotel, which at one time faced the possibility of demolition, until developer Randall Davis intervened and renovated it into the Rice Lofts.
The hosting organization Preservation Texas was represented by board president Dwayne Jones, executive director Evan Thompson, and office manager Paul Cato. Special guests included former Ft. Worth councilmember Joel Burns, former Houston mayor Annise Parker, and former Houston first lady Kathy Hubbard.
Other special guests were R.W. McKinney, a member of the Houston Heritage Society’s advisory board; Don Kelly, whose collection of LGBT literature and culture were acquired by Texas A&M University in 2015; and David Bush, executive director of Preservation Houston.
Burns is well known for his 2010 “It Gets Better” speech to the Fort Worth City Council after the suicide of 13-year-old Houstonian Asher Brown who was bullied for being gay. A video of the speech went viral on the Internet.
Burns talked with OutSmart about his recent activities. A four-term council member, Burns left the council in 2014 to attend graduate school at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He described the experience as one of the most profound opportunities of his lifetime. “Two of the women in my class are returning to Africa,” he said, “and they will be the first women to run for president of their countries.”
Parker said that she had spoken earlier in the day at the conference’s Diversity Luncheon. In her speech, she encouraged minorities to work to save our cultural heritage, much of which has been lost.
Hubbard revealed to OutSmart some local preservation news. When her financial services office was located at Montrose and California, a Leadership Houston class installed a tiled mural depicting Houston’s diverse history on one exterior wall. Although the building looks ripe for demolition, Hubbard said the mural is safe, because “when it was installed, I insisted that it be built on removable panels.”
Burns, who once worked for Preservation Dallas, addressed the reception briefly, as did Parker, Jones, and Thompson. Preservation Texas currently has an LGBT Texas historical initiative.
The Trust conference held a learning lab on Thursday, November 17, entitled “LGBTQ for Me and You” at the George R. Brown Convention Center.