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Lacy directs youth camp volunteers before a hike to Alto Mesa at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Mark Lacy, Founder
Houston Institute for Culture

Lacy's extensive experience in education and program planning and development is described below.


Surveying, Map Making, Residential Design
Jack H. Lacy Engineering
During the summer between Eighth and Ninth grades, Lacy began working for his father's engineering firm. Starting at age 14, he spent his summers surveying Oklahoma highways, subdivisions and industrial parks. He utilized highly technical equipment to precisely measure and describe landscape topography and features. He began drafting maps and legal documents within the first year, while in middle school. Through his high school years, his father added residential architecture to his duties and increased his hours to include the school year.

Lacy had already designed and built houses before he entered college. While away at the University of Houston, he continued to work for the engineering firm during the summers. His responsibilities grew, as Lacy presented construction plans before city council and worked as the communications chief for the firm's survey crews on Air Force Base runways. While his main duties were surveying, drafting, cartography, civic design and residential architecture, Lacy gained extensive knowledge in energy efficient buildings and use of alternative energy sources.


Lacy made this accidental "selphie" while loading film in a large-format camera to make an aerial photograph of a job site, a pre Internet technique used to visualize and map land from a birds-eye view, his early answer to "Google Earth".

Student Leadership, Journalism, Program Development
UH Residence Halls, Student Publications and Student Activities
As a student at the University of Houston, Lacy worked simultaneously in several student leadership positions that resulted in a range of professional experience. The part time jobs started him on a career path utilizing event planning, project management, media relations, marketing and community development that would lead him to found important Houston organizations, programs and events.

Residential Life and Housing

After a highly competitive selection process, Lacy accepted a paraprofessional position in the university residence halls as a Resident Advisor. The job involved planning activities for residents, enforcing rules, maintaining a safe environment, responding to emergencies, and reporting to dormitory management and university officials. Lacy held the position for three years before taking on a more involved staff position as an Activity Advisor. For two years in the role of Activity Advisor, Lacy advised student committees, set policies, planned dorm and campus-wide events, chaired the Faculty Friends Committee, and designed numerous educational and recreational programs for students and visitors to the university.

Student Publications

As a student in journalism and fine arts, Lacy immediately took on real-world jobs to gain experience outside of class. He served as Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor for the Houstonian yearbook, and as Sports Editor and Entertainment Editor for the Daily Cougar newspaper. His work led to national syndication of his feature writing and exciting freelance jobs with the Houston Chronicle. Lacy received several awards from media organizations, including perfect scores from the Associated Collegiate Press for his work on the Daily Cougar's entertainment pages. In the editor positions, he managed staff and deadline schedules, learned extensive legal information, and attended conferences on changing trends in publication design and distribution.

To increase yearbook sales at the largely commuter campus, and since there had been no outreach efforts in the previous years, Lacy developed new strategies to provide promotional events and media campaigns to appeal to students. A personal highlight was a national conference and workshop with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger and numerous nationally-known journalists in Washington D.C., which sparked an interest in the legal system, policy making and particularly the nation's cultural assets, including the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution.

Student Program Board

Lacy served on a number of volunteer committees for Student Program Board, the organization charged with planning many of the university's most important events. He started as co-chair of the Student Video Network and eventually chaired the Campus-wide Activities committee and Visual and Performing Arts committee. The positions required planning, promoting and implementing numerous campus-wide events, including Homecoming and several spring music and arts festivals. He worked to create new, effective policies for university event planning.

Lacy organized collaborations with organizations and departments across campus to increase student awareness and participation in the events. And he gained valuable experience working with key leaders and topical issues, such as a talk by Cosmonaut Valentin Lebedev on his record-setting 211 days in space, who he brought to campus with the help of NASA. And, of course, he found great excitement in booking local and national music acts for concerts in university theatres and parks. Several decades later, many of the events are still talked about when university alumni gather.


Rigoberta Menchu visits University of Houston before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As a student and staff member at the university, Lacy had many opportunities to meet with and learn from international leaders.

As a student and professional journalist, Lacy documented important events and impactful cultural and social trends.

Lacy made this photo of Ant Farm Collective member and UH architecture professor, Doug Michels, during an interview.

As a scientific photographer for the UH College of Engineering, Lacy used scientific processes to document experiemnts that were not visible to the human eye or to most professional photo and video equipment.

Scientific Photography, Research Support
University of Houston, Cullen College of Engineering
While Lacy gained extensive professional experience in difficult jobs through middle school, high school and college, in many ways he considered his position in the UH Cullen College of Engineering to be his first real job because of the challenges it presented. Lacy was hired to make scientific documents of processes that were not visible to the human eye, which also could not be captured using conventional photography and video equipment. He researched scientific methods and uses of technical equipment that were well beyond anything he had previously been prepared for in order to record experiments where the results were needed to make efficient engines and conductors, cool nuclear reactors, strengthen public infrastructure and launch experiments in space.

Lacy established a respected working relationship with leading engineers and scientists, including: Dr. John Lienhard, researcher and producer of "Engines of Our Ingenuity"; Dr. Alex Ignatiev, lead investigator for thin film technologies through the Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center; and, Dr. Paul Chu, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity. While the launch of the SVEC Wake Shield project in space was surely the most exciting program Lacy had a role in, as he had produced features and presentations to move the project forward, meetings with important public figures, from NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin to Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, had tremendous impact on Lacy and his goals.


Working to promote and fund important science programs for the University of Houston provided invaluable experience. Alex Ignatiev is pictured in the lab with a scale model of the Space Vacuum Epitaxi Center's Wake Sheild satelite.

Cultural and Educational Tour Organizing
Lost Dutchman Expeditions
Lacy started an adventure tour company as a home business to share my interests with friends and the community, but the educational travel series "Lost Dutchman Expediciones Fotográficas de las Barrancas y los Ríos" led to many exciting developments in his life. The experience contributed to many aspects of Houston Institute for Culture, the organization Lacy founded in 1997. Regional travel experience led him to start a series of youth camps in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. International travel experience enabled him to provide cultural competency workshops for university departments, cultural organizations, and NASA and U.S. State Department employees who travel overseas.

The educational tours helped him make contacts with educational and cultural organization leaders in many U.S. cities, and to work with leading institutions, including National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian. To promote the tours and to extend the benefit for the broader public, Lacy organized numerous local educational presentations at universities and libraries, which resulted in invitations to travel to other U.S. cities to give talks on significant cultural interests.


Lacy studied and documented important cultural traditions while taking groups on educational tours of historic regional destinations, festivals and museums. In the photo, monks perform Bhutanese rituals at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Radio Production, Program Hosting and Reseach
KTRU, KPFT and others
Lacy served as a program host for radio shows, including historical, regional and international music for college and community radio programs. He additionally produced recordings and syndicated programs for similar stations around the U.S. Lacy recorded and edited hundreds of interviews and speaches for radio broadcast. He developed programs to aquire oral histories and archives through community involvement. Lacy additionally taught classes and workshops on skills and techniques of broadcast-quality recording and production for community members who wish to contribute to community history and public affairs broadcasting.

Lacy researched regional music traditions and the historical music of the U.S. and Mexico for community and college educational radio programs. He served more than a decade as director of world music for Rice University's KTRU. He later produced world music programs for Houston Pacifica station, KPFT. The research component of his radio programs on regional and historical music contributed to significant aspects of the Houston Institute for Culture. The depth of interesting subjects, along with technical needs (broadcast-quality recording capability and the requirement to preserve and distribute archives), led to the organization's interest to develop the Digital Story Resource Center as part of the Houston Museum of Culture.


For radio production, as well as presentation of public events and exhibits, Lacy has researched regional traditional arts and the social interests of communities. Grammy nominated Corey Ledet, who has participated in several HIFC programs, is pictured.

Fundraising, Marketing, Media, Public Relations
University of Houston, Office of Public Affairs
Lacy was hired to produce journalism and documentary work similar to his many accomplishments for the UH Cullen College of Engineering – to interpret extremely complicated subjects for the general public and produce feature articles and photographs for official communications of the university, including funding proposals. But Lacy reported to his new job in the Office of Public Affairs on the same day as the new university president, Dr. James Pickering, and found that we had a new mission – a major capital campaign. Lacy spent his first three years working alongside the president and development staff, hosting major events for university constituents, touching up the president's speeches, making introductions between major campaign chairs and supporters, meeting with staff to develop the best strategies to execute the campaign, and creating publications to interest donors in the university's vision and goals. The campaign exceeded its initial goal, as the effort raised $360 million for the UH System.

Following the successful campaign, Lacy continued to work in many capacities within the Public Affairs division (now the Division of Marketing, Communication and Media Relations), from documenting important work of faculty experts as photo stories, feature articles and internet resources, to building university archives and organizing conferences. In addition to event planning and university marketing, He continued to excel in journalism and public relations by producing dozens of national award-winning features about the university as part of our successful campaign to achieve Tier 1 status. Lacy had the privilege to work with U.S. presidents, world leaders and Nobel prize winners, including Linus Pauling, Rigoberta Menchu, Oscar Arias Sanchez, and a half dozen more.

Lacy's work involved planning publications and electronic communications, and developing content, as well as media relationships and the broadest possible placement for the content. Additionally, he worked with colleagues to plan fundraising and promotional events for the university, advertising campaigns, and accomplish the university's mission and goals. The job provided opportunities to meet with the nation's most respected fundraising and marketing consultants, and to attend innovative conferences on communications and institutional planning. The greatest benefit of working in the administration was the collaboration and interaction with faculty and students across all the diverse academic fields at the university, providing him with the broadest possible experience and education.

In 1997, through extensive academic connections across Houston, Lacy formed Houston Institute for Culture, an association with colleagues at several area universities to bring arts and topical activities to the public by sharing resources and mutually hosting the events at the universities. To provide greater benefits to the city, the institute incorporated in Texas in 2002 as an educational non-profit organization and became an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2003. It continued to produce events in cooperation with UH, Rice and University of St Thomas, but also took on many city-wide initiatives as it grew, including working with Hurricane Katrina survivors in 2005 and hosting a relief effort at Discovery Green following Hurricane Ike in 2008.


While working to market the University of Houston. Lacy had extensive opportunities to interact with leading scientists and artists. His photograph of Edward Albee opened the Kennedy Center's documentary of the master playwright for a special on CBS television.

Lacy has surveyed many of the region's interesting attractions and significant industries, such as this accoustic communications lab at the Johnson Space Center.

Administration, Grant Writing, Education, Community Development, Research
Houston Institute for Culture
Lacy left a full time position at University of Houston that he held for 17 years to become more involved with efforts across the city by working part time as executive director for the Houston Institute for Culture (HIFC). While at the university, he served several semesters as a visiting lecturer for an innovative digital storytelling program in the UH College of Education, so he planned to see HIFC bring the program to area schools. And he believed there were many other valuable initiatives to bring to Houston communities, including an effort to start a major national museum for the city, the Houston Museum of Culture.

Taking the part-time position allowed him to spend time over three years to lay the foundation for the future international education center – to research and analyze many of the most significant cultural assets and visitor attractions across the nation. Lacy has been able to study the level of success, visitation, support processes, educational programs and tourism benefits of the nation's most recognizable museums, parks and cultural districts.

Lacy's responsibilities for the Houston Institute for Culture include event planning, fundraising, grant writing, media relations, managing facilities, securing permits, teaching and facilitating workshops, and contracting significant regional and national talent for events at Miller Outdoor Theatre and Discovery Green. Many of the organization's events continue to take place at area universities, as well as unique art spaces – the Orange Show, The Artery, Kingspoint and River Oaks Theatre.

The organization has provided significant historic events, including Houston's Juneteenth Celebration at Miller Outdoor Theatre, as well as mini festivals like El dia de los muertos, Frida Festival and Celebrate Houston! for nearly 10 years. The organization's East End Studio Gallery and community facilities have provided opportunities for Houston artists and organizations since 2004, recently winning the Houston Press Readers' Choice Award for Best Art Gallery.

Through his work over the past 12 years as a volunteer and director, the Houston Institute for Culture is well established. And he has built strong connections through area management districts and set visionary goals to confidently move the organization to a new level for the city and region in the future as the Houston Museum of Culture.

View information about Houston Institute for Culture programs during its 12 Year Annivesary, as well as the organization's Vision for Houston and survey of International Museum Visitors.


Beginning as a journalism and art student at the University of Houston, Lacy has studied and documented many interesting traditions and ways of life of people in the U.S. and Mexico. While recording interviews about el dia de los muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico, Lacy made this documentary photo of a cemetery memorial. He continues to document many endangered cultural practices, while developing a major institution for Houston to promote greater education about diverse ways of life.

Houston Institute for Culture audiences and tour groups have benefitted tremendously from cultural exchange programs and international presenters in traditional arts and culture.

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