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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Fine Arts

Gallery: UH’s expansive public art collection

The Public Art of the University of Houston System features a robust 700-plus collection, over half of which can be found on the University of Houston main campus. The University has accumulated this collection over the past half-century.

“Public art across the UH System is always free and always open to everyone,” said Director and Chief Curator of the Public Art of the University of Houston System Maria Gaztambide. “There is something utopian to be said about our collection: it is truly democratic, truly accessible to all and relevant to our daily life.”

Some one percent of the construction costs of building projects that cost more than $1 million has gone toward the acquisition of works of art since a University of Houston System Board of Regents policy regarding the acquisition of art was established.

UH was the first public university in Texas to formally allot a percent of construction project costs for an art program, according to the PAUHS website.

Started with the intention of enhancing campus life and the University’s prestige, the public art program has amassed a lengthy history and more than 700 works have been on view throughout the UH System in that time, according to the PAUHS website.

Each of these public artworks has a history of its own:

Cristobella Durrette / The Cougar

Winged Woman Walking, 1996, Stephen de Staebler

The bronze statue can be found outside of the Moores School of Music. The piece “was a gift of Jane Blaffer Owen and placed at the Moores School of Music specifically to celebrate their new building,” said PAUHS curator Michael Guidry.

Courtesy of Martha Hayes, Honors College director of communication

Shine and Rise, 2007, Randy Twaddle

The 9×27-foot canvas hangs above the entrance to the Honors College Commons room in the Honors College at the M.D. Anderson Library.

The mixed media work was commissioned using the remaining funds from a renovation project at the M.D. Anderson Library, Guidry said.

Cristobella Durrette / The Cougar

Fiesta Dancers, 1991-93, Luis Jimenez

Purchased from a local gallery, the piece was purchased to honor current and former faculty in the Katherine G. McGovern College of the Arts, Guidry said.

The work’s location at the corner of Wheeler Avenue and Cullen Boulevard was chosen due to a lack of artworks in that part of the campus when it was acquired in 2011.

“We thought it would be a nice anchor for this corner of campus,” Guidry said.

The piece will be relocated within the next year to a site closer to the Arts District due to construction on Cullen Boulevard, Guidry said.

Cristobella Durrette / The Cougar

Double Physichromie, 2009, Carlos Cruz-Diez

Originally commissioned for the Welcome Center Parking Garage and acquired in 2009, the painted aluminum and steel sculpture was relocated to the Arts District in 2018.

The public art program changed the sculpture’s location to allow it to be viewed as the artist intended and to be better appreciated by the public, Guidry said.

Cruz-Diez died on July 27 at 95 years old.

Cristobella Durrette / The Cougar

The Statue of Four Lies, 2010, The Art Guys

Despite the work’s title, the statue does not feature four lies.

Claiming that there are four lies in the piece is a lie in itself, said Guidry in a previous interview with the Cougar about the work.

Instead of four lies, the piece features bronze facsimiles of its creators and a time capsule with intentionally incorrect dates for when the capsule was sealed and the University’s 100th anniversary.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated the incorrect amount of artworks. The story also referred to artists by their individual, instead of their group name.

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