City Cast

How AvantGarden Became A Poetry Hotspot

Brooke Lewis
Posted on September 5
A crowd watches a poet wearing a Black T-shirt and patterned shorts speak on stage.

AvantGarden is one of the most popular places for spoken word in Houston. (AvantGarden/Facebook)

AvantGarden is a place Houstonians flock to hear moving poetry from talented artists. The weekly open mic gatherings, which are hosted by Write About Now, started off small but now have a worldwide following. Let’s learn more.

Before Houstonians knew the venue as AvantGarden, it was a mansion owned by Murray Davis. Davis’ grandfather originally moved into the house in 1915. At the front of the house, there was a scale business and a repair shop in the back. Howard Hughes, who later became a billionaire and well-known celebrity in Houston, used to play at the mansion with the Davis children. Years later in 1995, Mariana Lemesoff purchased the now vacant mansion on Westheimer and desired to make it into a performing arts venue.

Lemesoff didn’t intend for the club to start off with a gothic aesthetic, but the black walls and the name Mausoleum attracted a certain crowd. She went with it for a while, booking some goth-centric bands. Lemesoff eventually decided to change the name to Helios to expand the crowd she attracted. By 2007, the name changed to AvantGarden.

As years passed, AvantGarden became a central place for spoken word artists in Houston. Write About Now, which was founded by Amir Safi, hosts weekly poetry slams and open mic nights every Wednesday night. The gathering has garnered attention from artists and celebrities all over the country such as Chance The Rapper and Lenny Kravitz. The venue now boasts a bar and also hosts weddings and live music performances.

So, what happens once you become Houston Poet Laureate? Outspoken Bean, who has performed at Avant Garden and served as the Houston Poet Laureate, shares his journey. [City Cast Houston 🎧]

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