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By Laura Landsbaum

From the very beginning of The Woodlands, public art stood out as part of the unconventional strategic plan. George Mitchell, the visionary founder of The Woodlands, established The Woodlands Art Fund with Colson Tough of The Woodlands Development Company (now Howard Hughes) back in 1973, a year before the pioneering master planned community even debuted. To this day, Howard Hughes continues to dedicate funds from new commercial development to sustain and expand this initiative, ensuring The Woodlands continues to benefit from a vibrant and diverse collection of outdoor art.

The Woodlands Art Fund’s goal centered around elevating the “cultural and aesthetic landscape of The Woodlands,” notes Jim Carman, president of the Houston Region for Howard Hughes.

The first outdoor installation in The Woodlands went into place in 1974 to commemorate the grand opening of the community. This 40-foot sculpture known as “The Family” is still positioned prominently at the Woodlands Parkway entrance to The Woodlands and is the work of artist Charles Pebworth. The artwork portrays an abstract yet graceful depiction of a family embracing, characterized by fluid lines and forms.

“The Family” serves as a welcoming symbol, having invited all to experience The Woodlands for 50 years now.

The Family Sculpture

Since that initial piece, The Woodlands Art Fund collection has grown to more than 90 pieces of outdoor art. Howard Hughes, in collaboration with Kinzelman Art Consulting, evaluates and selects works of art for acquisition and placement within the community, with Howard Hughes committing the resources to keep George Mitchell’s original art vision growing.

Howard Hughes approaches the placement of new artwork by considering various factors including the nature of the project, the public use in and around the art and commemorative dedications. They also consider optimal visibility and accessibility.

Windwaves, Hughes Landing, The Woodlands

“By thoughtfully selecting locations, Howard Hughes aims to ensure that the art piece becomes an integral part of the community experience, enriching public spaces and fostering a sense of connection and appreciation among residents, tenants and visitors,” Carman says.

Howard Hughes also funds the preservation of the existing outdoor sculptures which is an important aspect of the program. Outdoor artwork in The Woodlands is strategically added through funding generated by commercial development, facilitated by Howard Hughes. 

“This approach aligns with the vision of The Woodlands as a community that prioritizes both economic growth and cultural vitality,” Carman notes.

Honoring an Art Pioneer In The Woodlands

The most recent sculpture added to The Woodlands Art Fund collection depicts the late Coulson Tough at the entrance of the elementary school named in his honor. The life-size, interactive sculpture, from sculptor Bridgette Mongeon, captures the likeness and expression of Coulson Tough casually sitting on a bench.

As an interactive piece, the six-foot wide bench includes space for two or three people to sit and imagine holding a conversation with Tough. One where the uplifting power of art is honored.

Coulson Tough Sculpture Dedication

Public art plays a pivotal role in making The Woodlands a better place to live. Residents, businesses and visitors have access to one of the nation’s most extensive collections of outdoor art. Outdoor art serves as a wayfinding tool for enhancing the natural beauty and providing cultural engagement in The Woodlands too. The relationship between development and art ensures a continuous infusion of creativity and cultural enrichment throughout this unique community.

Our community is known for its natural beauty nestled within a forest of trees and the outdoor art showcases one of the largest collections in the nation in our own backyard for residents and guests to enjoy.

With nature complemented by art, you can see why The Woodlands was named the best community to live in America.


Many thanks to The Woodlands 50th Anniversary Sponsors:

FOUNDING – Howard Hughes

PRODUCER – The Woodlands Township

LEGACY – Woodforest National Bank

HERITAGE – Waste Connections Inc.

GOLD – Entergy Texas, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital

SILVER – SVN/JBeard Real Estate, The John Cooper School