PaperCity Magazine

October 2019- Houston

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Page 109 of 135

108 I n hindsight, 1969 would have seemed an improbable year for a fledgling state university to take the bold step of collecting art. It was the finale of a decade marked by more than the moon landing — there was campus unrest nationally, turbulent protests swirling around the Vietnam War, violence against the soldiers of the Civil Rights movement, and the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Nonetheless, this was the moment when collecting and commissioning public art at the University of Houston began. Was it to posit a positive response to an uncertain time? Spurred by a spate of new buildings for the rapidly expanding campus of a booming city, then-president Philip Hoffman and the board of regents launched an innovative Percent for Art program, where one percent of all construction costs were allotted towards acquiring works of art. The impetus was novel — the first one in the state — and set a precedent that prompted the Texas legislature to pass a bill that made this program a part of all public university campuses statewide. Flash forward 50 years, and the University of Houston is the steward of a collection of more than 700 artworks on view throughout its five campuses — the original University of Houston on Cullen Boulevard, as well as in Clear Lake, downtown, Sugar Land, and Victoria. The holdings include international, national, Texas, and Houston-based artists. Under the leadership of Chancellor Renu Khator, the public art program has garnered increasing emphasis and visibility, birthed a new moniker and mantra — Public Art of the University of Houston System (PAUHS), democratically branded as Exclusively for Everyone — and appointed its first director/chief curator, Dr. María C. Gaztambide. The new hire, by all accounts, is tenacious and brilliant, combining academic credentials (over a decade at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) and a dynamic leadership style. With long- time curator Michael Guidry, the duo continue the mission to commission prescient works that are both timeless and speak to our time — case in point, the university tapped Carlos Cruz-Diez for the Latin American master's first permanent BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON WITH A MILESTONE HALF-CENTURY ANNIVERSARY AND THE LAUNCH OF A NEW TEMPORARY PUBLIC ART PROGRAM, THE UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON STAKES A CLAIM TO BE ONE OF AMERICA'S TOP ART COLLECTING INSTITUTIONS. UH GOES MEDICI Brian Tolle's Origin, 2014, at the University of Houston ALL IMAGES UNLESS NOTED, COURTESY THE COLLECTION OF PAUHS. HOUSTON MOBIUS IMAGE PHOTO DAN POLLOCK, CECILIA DE TORRES, LTD. "MOBIUS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE WORKS. A MOBIUS IS THE MATERIAL REPRESENTATION OF THE INFINITE." — Artist Marta Chilindrón (continued on page 110)

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