By R. Clayton McKee For The Chronicle
When Peter Vossos was growing up in South Dakota, his Greek heritage was not exactly foremost on his mind.
Today, the Missouri City resident feels differently. “As I grew older, I began to appreciate my Greek roots a little more,” he said. “We have a culture and history that had more impact on Western history than any other.”
Vossos decided he wanted to pass on that appreciation and knowledge to his children and grandchildren.
That's why he decided to support efforts to create the Hellenic Cultural Center of the Southwest three years ago.
“How do we protect Hellenic culture in Houston for those of Hellenic descent and those who are interested in it?” said Vossos, who now serves on the nonprofit organization's 20-member board.
The resulting organization, based at 3015 Richmond Ave. in Houston's Upper Kirby District, hosts community activities and special events throughout the year.
Nicholas Checkles, M.D., and Anthony Kouzounis, president of the Hellenic Cultural Center, look at the poster for the upcoming presentation of Euripides' “Troides” at Houston Baptist Univeristy.
The organization's first president, north Houston resident Nick Checkles, remains active on the board.
One of the center's 2008 programs was a presentation of Hidden Children of Occupied Greece in collaboration with the Jewish Community Center of Houston. The exhibit presents the life of 16 Jewish children from Greece who escaped death during Greece's Nazi occupation with the help of Christian compatriots who hid them. Board member Perry Mavrelis convinced his first cousin, former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, to speak at the exhibit opening with wife, Kitty Dukakis.
“That just really launched the Hellenic Cultural Center,” said Mavrelis, who represents the Houston chapter of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association on the center board. “We started with nothing. It's been amazing what a handful of people, when they're dedicated, can do.” Mavrelis of First Colony said he has found it exciting to see the organization in motion.
Coming next is a production of Troades (Trojan Women), which the center will present in cooperation with Houston Baptist University at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2. The play will appear at HBU's Dunham Theater, 7502 Fondren Road. Troades will be produced by The Theatre Scheme of Leonidas Loizides of Athens, Greece, which presented a play for the Hellenic Cultural Center last year, too. The tragedy by Greek playwright Euripides addresses the aftermath of the Trojan War. “Some women became slaves; some were raped,” said center President Anthony Kouzounis, a Midtown resident. “This is a topic that's still relevant in today's time.” The play will be part of a month of activities the center is referring to as Hellenic Cultural Month.
Scheduled for Oct. 1-4 is the Original Greek Festival, which will be held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral complex, 3511 Yoakum Blvd. For details, visit www.greekfestival.org/.
On Oct. 16-17, the center will present “The Best of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival” in cooperation with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 5100 Montrose Blvd. Details: http://www.mfah.org/.
The center also plans to present the Culinary Arts of Alexander the Great in early November.
The center has been striving to present a broad spectrum of cultural events from the beginning, Vossos said. These have ranged from art exhibits to guest speakers.
“Being Greek is more than baklava and Zorba the Greek,” he said. “There's a lot more to the culture.”
Eventually, Kouzounis said, the center hopes to have its own building. “Our purpose is to have a cultural center where we will be able to have lectures and a Greek language school,” he said.
For more information about the center, visit http://www.hcc-sw.org/.