The Menil Collection and Franci Neely Welcome Cameroonian Artist Herve Youmbi

The Menil Collection has long been known for its incredible art exhibits, and 2023 certainly seems to be no exception. Right now, a brand-new exhibition is on display titled “Art of the Cameroon Grassfields: A Living Heritage in Houston.”

It formally began in February with a Q&A from Herve Youmbi, the Cameroonian artist with a significant amount of work on display throughout the exhibit. That includes not only sculptures but also head dresses, royal stools, hats, and more – all of which were carefully selected to help paint a vivid picture of the unique cultural heritage that the country has to offer.

Pieces from the exhibit were collected from several sources including Youmbi himself, the holdings of The Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, and local private collections. All of it is as fascinating as Cameroon itself – a country that is home to more than 200 independent monarchies that each have their own stories, languages, and cultures. Many of them date back to the 17th century, but some are even older than that. The exhibit was curated by Paul R. Davis, the Curator of Collections at The Menil Collection.

Supporting Art in Houston: The Franci Neely Way

Although Franci Neely is now known as one of the most passionate supporters of the arts located anywhere in the Houston area today, it wasn’t always that way.

When she was younger, she wanted to pursue a career as an actress – but soon realized the need to be able to financially support herself in a stable way. It was at that point that she decided to go into the legal profession. If she couldn’t perform on the stage, she figured, she would perform in court.

All told, her career spanned more than 20 years. She eventually worked her way to the top, earning a partnership at Susman Godfrey, LLP. This was one of the best litigation boutiques in the United States with offices located across the country.

As is true with so many other trial attorneys, however, Franci Neely eventually decided that she’d had enough. She chose to retire from her profession, at which point she returned to her true passion: the arts in all its forms.

Almost immediately after retiring, she formed The Franci Neely Foundation to offer support to the performing, literary, and visual arts. She was also one of the founders of the Houston Cinema Arts Society (called HCAS for short). In addition to its day-to-day activities, HCAS also puts together a well-attended film festival in the Houston area every November. Richard Linklater, the renowned director behind hit films like “Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood,” and “Before Sunrise,” is a “great friend” of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival.

In the end, it’s safe to say that Franci Neely is incredibly passionate about art in all its forms – and she wants as many people as possible to know that very same joy. That’s why she’s devoted this chapter of her life to the topic and that is one trend that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Those in the Houston area are encouraged to stop by The Menil Collection to see “Art of the Cameroon Grassfields: A Living Heritage in Houston” before it formally closes on July 9, 2023.


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