The Kinder Foundation is committed to making impactful gifts which improve Houston in significant ways. With an ambitious vision set forth by founders Rich and Nancy Kinder, the Kinder Foundation is supported by an exceptional staff of experienced professionals who help make our mission a reality.
Today, we introduce you to Guy Hagstette, Senior Vice President of Parks and Civic Projects. Guy is a registered architect and urban planner who directs the foundation’s park and civic projects. As a consultant on Buffalo Bayou Park for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and an advisor to the Houston Parks Board on Bayou Greenways, Hagstette has helped the city blossom.
Is there something about the Kinder Foundation that is meaningful to you that many people may not know?
I was born (a long time ago) in Hermann Hospital across the street from Hermann Park, and I grew up going to parks all over the city. Like many Houstonians, I did not realize that a park could be more than some worn-down grass, a picnic table or two, a swing set, and maybe a bar-be-que pit. The Kinder Foundation has played an instrumental role in opening our eyes to the incredible social, environmental and economic benefits – and even joy – that parks can offer if we only invest in them. I get out and enjoy our parks even more than when I was a child, and I truly believe they are transforming Houston.
What, in your opinion, makes the Kinder Foundation unique amongst its peers?
I still remember the immediate change in the pace of my work when I began working on Discovery Green in 2005. Nancy Kinder was chair, and she was bound and determined to make a difference – quickly. This meant results were expected from every meeting, and “decisive” is the best way to describe those results. I grew to love the pace of the work but also had to sharpen my skills because there is less room for error and no going back when time is so greatly valued. Nancy and Rich Kinder are deeply engaged in every aspect of the foundation’s work, and there is a good-sized Plexiglas marker on every desk reminding us to be “Thorough But Fast.”
What do you hope to see accomplished in Houston’s green space sector in 20 years?
Over almost two decades, we have been part of establishing a new vision for Houston, one in which parks and green space play a vital role. The range of work we have supported has been broad – from SPARK’s school parks, to Discovery Green’s urbanity, to Emancipation Park’s history, to beautiful landscapes like Buffalo Bayou and Memorial parks, to regional systems like Bayou Greenways. Each is an example of the rich variety of assets that a successful park system (and city) must possess. Seeing is believing, and most Houstonians now appreciate what a great park can be. They also want one near them. I hope to see two things happen soon and then blossom over the next 20 years. First, I want our growing appreciation for parks to translate into broad-based financial support because philanthropy can help lead the way but cannot shoulder the cost of improving our entire park system on its own. If the public sector can broaden and deepen its partnership with philanthropy, I hope to see fantastic parks throughout Houston.
If you had no commitments and a full weekend to spend in Houston, what would you do?
My ideal weekend would begin with a bike ride along our bayous. The hard part would be deciding which one because there is such a rich variety of landscapes and experiences to choose from. I could spend a good bit of my day on a bike so a stop for lunch in one of the diverse neighborhoods along the way would be a treat. I would add a visit to the Menil, MFAH or Project Row Houses for an exhibition because they and Houston’s many other museums offer visual arts that simply are not available in most cities. Evenings would be spent attending a performance. It could be the symphony, ballet or a show at one of our parks, many of which also serve as performing arts venues without roofs. Somewhere in there, I would get a swim in. I grew up competing for several Houston teams and then in college, and when people ask me about Houston’s weather, I say it’s almost always perfect – for a swim outdoors!