Not the Tiger Ball, Asia Society Reaches the Masses with the Night Market

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The stretch of Southmore Blvd between the Asia Society Center and its parking lot was closed off for the Night Market

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  In sharp contrast to the glitter and paparazzi laden Tiger Ball held in the Spring, the Asia Society’s Night Market electrifies the block on Southmore Blvd, between Caroline and Austin, converting it into a mini-recreation of the sort of frenzied atmosphere you’d experience at a urban patch of a large Asian city.

The result is a sanitized mix of food trucks catering to tastes from Thai to Tex-Mex; vendors under red pop-up tents lining the street, a small band playing to one corner of the lawn and crowds – mostly casual with young kids, pet dogs in tow – bustling between the spots and up and down the street which was cordoned off at each end this past Friday, September 18 in the evening till 9pm.

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Many Indo-Americans, like Chuni Vyas, husband Hemant (center) and friends came to check out the food trucks, vendors and the free Nature exhibit.

An idea that was unveiled in 2013 the year after the Asia Society Texas Center was opened; the Night Market has become the other cornerstone of the Center’s outreach to the arts and cultural scene, especially as the Center is set in the heart of that district. Since it was first launched in 2013, the Night Market has found a following among those who seek a different flavor to the international crowd in the Bayou City. This year’s Market was sponsored in great part by American First National Bank, which has also been a loyal supporter of the Asia Society Texas Center.

The vendors – several were from the Indian community – and other activities spilled into the main Center lobby and even upstairs into the large meeting room where tables were set in the center for kids to paint watercolors and make paper crafts and the room’s glass doors which open to the roof garden led to a vendor selling orchids. A bar was setup facing the glass wall looking onto the rooftop reflecting pool while the other side led to the series of rooms that displayed works that form the current Drawn From Nature exhibit that runs through February 21, 2016.

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Several local vendors, like Kalpana Peck and Vandana Prakash of Earthredz and Rubiya Hussain and her partner had booths at the market


The exhibit is a chance to see works by contemporary Asian artists who connect art and nature with astounding results like the floating pieces of charcoal made into a spherical disk or funneling inward by Seon Ghi Bahk or the rattan, beeswax, bamboo and burlap designs by Sopheap Pich. A particularly fascinating piece is the musical bamboo table made by Mineko Grimmer which is played by tiny pebbles which fall off a melting congealed wedge hung over the top with a wire. A complimentary adjoining piece of his does the same with steel wires strung between a wooden frame.

And of particular interest to the Desi crowd was the appearance on Friday night of the Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpayee who was in town (with his wife the actress Shabana Raza, formerly known as Neha) as a speical guest of the Magic Bus Gala (see page 05) that was held the following night. Baypayee was brought to Houston by his college friend, local attorney Rajneesh Chaudhary who is on the Advisory Board of the Asia Society Houston. Thronged by many locals who came to meet him, Baypayee gladly posed for pictures with his adoring fans.