Our My Top 5 series showcases Houstonians who are creating the city’s culture and community and asks them to share their own local favorites. This week we’re delighted to feature fine art photographer and co-founder of the Heartmade Art Market, Tracy Manford Carlson. The free, juried art market has raised more than $40,000 in donation revenue for local charities while championing Texas artists both new and established. Due to the weather forecast this weekend, the next edition will take place in the heart of Downtown at the intersection of Main and McKinney Streets on Saturday, June 1 from 10am to 5pm.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Tracy Manford Carlson
- The Orange Show — I have never been to the Orange Show and not been inspired. I am a completely self-taught photographer, and my first few visits to the shrine to a man’s favorite fruit yielded a bumper crop of photos I’ll always be proud of. I can chart my growth as an artist by looking through my photos taken at that crazy, wonderful place. When I take out-of-town visitors they always look at me and say, “But… why?” and my answer is, “Because…Houston.”
- Local stores — Space Montrose, Murder by the Book, Anvil Cards, Hello-Lucky, The Whimsey Artisan… Houston is beyond blessed with incredible people who put their hearts and souls into their stores. These shop owners lift up local creatives and bring talent to our city that we’d never know otherwise. I’ve been shopping at Murder by the Book since I was 13 and I’m 42 now. That’s love. Space Montrose is the first store to ever carry my work and they continue to do so to this day. Do yourself a favor: stay out of the chain stores and shop local. You’ll never regret it.
- Pondicheri — Pondicheri has been the unofficial “office” of our market since its inception, and my partner Sonja Fulbright and I love nothing more than to have a delicious Breakfast Frankie while we work downstairs and then run up to the Bake Lab to get sweets and talk about anything but business. Anita has created such a warm and beautiful space for people to gather and appreciate the incredible smells and tastes of her home country.
- Azalea Trail — So this is definitely a very brief seasonal affair, but growing up in Houston the Azalea Trail is THE marker that spring has arrived and River Oaks celebrates in an explosion of color. As kids, my friends and I would ride our bikes up and down every single street, winding through the back streets off Willowick and gawking at the huge homes and the spectacular riot of colors that were the azalea bushes in full bloom. Of course, no Trail would be complete without a visit to the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, where I once climbed to the top of a magnolia tree and scandalized a whole cadre of very proper ladies. I regret nothing.
- River Oaks Theatre — I defy any Houstonian, or at least any inner looper, to say they don’t have a defining River Oaks 3 moment. Always teetering on the edge of destruction, we need to take every chance we can get to enjoy the only theater in the city to show arthouse and foreign films, not to mention, the beloved “Midnight Movies”. If you haven’t experienced The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the River Oaks Theatre, grab a costume, some toast, and get over there.
About Tracy Manford Carlson
Tracy Manford Carlson is an eighth-generation Texan and native Houstonian who’s been taking photos of the Lone Star State and the southwestern U.S. for more than a decade. Her award-winning work has appeared in Lawndale Art Center‘s Big Show, Houston Chronicle and the Houston Press, and her corporate clients include Disney, Methodist Hospital, the Marriott Marquis Downtown, and numerous others. In 2016, she co-founded Heartmade Art Market with Sonja Fulbright of Crush Design Co. Since then the juried art market has raised more than $40,000 in donation revenue for local charities while championing Texas artists both new and established. Due to the weather forecast this weekend, the next edition of the free, family- and dog-friendly Heartmade Art Market will take place in the heart of Downtown at the intersection of Main and McKinney Streets on Saturday, June 1 from 10am to 5pm.