Axios Houston

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Today's newsletter is 941 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: H-Town country stations rep Beyoncé

Beyoncé at New York Fashion Week on Feb. 13. Photo: James Devaney/GC Images

Houston's country stations are embracing Beyoncé's twangy renaissance.

Why it matters: Queen Bey's new music, along with an Oklahoma country station's decision to not give it airtime, has revived an ongoing debate about diversity and inclusion in country music, where white artists dominate the airwaves.

Catch up fast: Houston-born Beyoncé last weekend released two singles — "Texas Hold 'Em" and "16 Carriages" — to tease her upcoming all-country album, "Act II," a notable departure from her regular pop, hip-hop and R&B style.

Driving the news: Houston's country stations 93Q and 100.3 The Bull will both play Beyoncé's new singles.

  • The Bull's music director and DJ Nick Russo debuted "16 Carriages" on his show Tuesday evening, and 93Q program manager Travis Moon confirmed to Axios that he added the singles to his station's rotation.

The other side: The Oklahoma station that didn't initially give Beyoncé airtime eventually started playing the songs.

  • General manager Roger Harris told CBS News the station's initial refusal was a mix-up.

The big picture: It's not surprising that Queen Bey's hometown is embracing her new direction in music.

"For us, it's a no-brainer," Russo told Axios.

  • He pointed to fans' speculation that "16 Carriages" is about Beyoncé's life as a teenage singer when she lived in Houston, adding that it felt "monumental" to put the song on the airwaves over the Bayou City.
  • "Country music right now is all built on genuine authenticity," Russo said. "If that [song] was an authentic representation of Beyoncé's self at that age, I think that's really powerful."

💭 Jay's thought bubble: At its best, the song's inclusion on country radio could help highlight country music's exclusion of Black voices — which helped shape the genre.

🗣️ Sound off: What do you think of Beyoncé going country?

  • Let us know by replying to this email.

Go deeper

2. Meow Wolf to collaborate with local artists

Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Meow Wolf, known for its experimental and interactive art exhibits, is currently creating an installation in Houston's Fifth Ward.

  • The company on Thursday released the names of 41 Texas artists who are collaborating on the new location, which will be its fifth permanent installation and is expected to open this year.

Why it matters: Meow Wolf's collaboration with local artists for the so-called intergalactic mosaic exhibition experience ensures that it represents and reflects the community in the Houston area, GONZO247, Meow Wolf's Houston artist liaison, tells Axios.

What's happening: Meow Wolf worked with curators and leaders in the local art space — like Harrison Guy with DeLUXE Theater and Y. E. Torres with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston — to find the Houston- and Texas-based artists who could collaborate on the new location.

What they're saying: "I think that cohort … shows who Houston is, from ethnicities to gender and the makeup of different parts of the city," GONZO247 says.

Here are some of the selected artists:

  • Kill Joy, an artist and activist whose work is grounded in honoring the earth and seeking environmental and social justice.
  • Havel Ruck Projects, a duo who've been making immersive art at abandoned or unused sites.
  • Afsaneh Aayani, one of the few female puppeteers in the theater world in Houston.
  • Trenton Doyle Hancock, an artist who weaves together comic book elements and multimedia installations.

What we're watching: When the exhibit will open and the unique theme for this installation have yet to be announced.

Worthy of your time: Our Axios Dallas colleague checks out Meow Wolf's Grapevine location, which opened last year.

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🏛️ A Magnolia man is the latest Texan accused of participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. (Houston Public Media)

💰 Harris County's budget is on a "razor's edge" after years of shifting priorities and increased spending, according to the county's budget director. (Houston Landing)

💃 Jennifer Lopez's This Is Me... Now tour is coming to Toyota Center on Aug. 31. (Axios)

4. A weekend to celebrate local Black art

Kehinde Wiley at his exhibit at the MFAH. Photo: Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and other local institutions are celebrating Black art this weekend with the citywide initiative "Black Art Houston."

Why it matters: This is the first time such a weekend of events has been put together. Various organizations have collaborated to host a weekend full of exhibitions, programs and open studios in celebration of local, contemporary Black art.

What's happening: The events from Saturday to Monday coincide with the opening of the MFAH exhibition "Multiplicity: Blackness in Contemporary American Collage," which inspired this weekend's events, per the museum.

Plus: There will be several programming events, such as writing workshops presented by The Free Black Women's Library HTX, a panel discussion at the ninth annual City Wide African American History Parade and Symposium, and wellness programs with the Black Man Project and the Black Woman Project, both art and mental health nonprofits.

Go deeper: Check out the full program schedule with an interactive map.

5. We're on Instagram

Photo: Greg Castillo/Axios

👋 Hi! Greg Castillo here. I'm the new social video host on the Axios Texas team.

What's happening: We want to tell uniquely Texan stories, and to do so, we want to ask a lot of questions, like:

  • Where do locals actually eat barbecue?
  • When is Beyoncé dropping new music?
  • What's the most valuable artwork in a Texas museum?

What's next: Follow @AxiosTexas on Instagram and let me know what you want to see on our account. I can't wait to hear from you!

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

📲 Shafaq is following Axios Texas on Instagram.

📈 Jay is reading about a rise in the popularity of Black country artists since Beyoncé's singles dropped.