Life + Arts

Named director garners partners

With the start of a new year, the inauguration of a new president into the White House and the appointment of a new University president, it is only appropriate that even the Blaffer Gallery would select a director for the on-campus museum who would propel it in an unexplored direction.

Claudia Schmuckli was officially appointed the new director of the Blaffer on Jan. 14 after nine months of consideration of qualified candidates from across the nation. John Antel, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, cites both the leadership shown by Schmuckli during her term as acting chief curator and the variety of exhibitions she organized during her involvement at the Blaffer as primary indicators of her passion for the museum – factors that weighed heavily on the decision to choose her.

In her first semester as director of the Blaffer Gallery, Schmuckli has already partnered with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership in order to recognize the research conducted by the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Houston. The culmination of this collaboration will be a series of exhibitions and public events that reveal the place of the city of Houston in the natural gas sphere, whether through the Port of Houston Shipping Channel as a point of transporting refined oil or through remnants of the machinery used in the refining process.

The CLUI’s research on the Texas oil industry has resulted in Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry, the first major exhibition of its kind to be displayed in the state. On view from Jan. 17 through March 29, the exhibition will include a Brown Bag Gallery Tour in February and a weekend symposium, as well as an Artists Talk in March with the founder and director of CLUI, Matthew Coolidge.

While Texas Oil is the primary product of the research of CLUI in Texas, additional programs have also been billed in order to place the oil industry of Houston in a contemporary vision.

CLUI and Buffalo Bayou Partnership will also host ‘Downstream,’ a boat-tour from Houston’s downtown to the San Jacinto Monument. Land tours are a unique component of the work of CLUI, and the boat tour will include audience exposure to the industrial environment of the bayou. A drive-in film series, ‘Junkyard Drive-In,’ is part of a public art initiative by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership that presents oil industry-related films in order to educate the public on the industry that placed Houston on the map.

Both projects are components of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership initiative Confluence, which focuses on public art and involvement with the bayou as the setting. Finally, a new commission from CLUI and SIMPARCH presents a floating platform and functional space that combines aspects of the architecture and ecology of the bayou.

All events presented are exhibited in collaboration with the Blaffer Gallery, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, with support from external organizations Baker Hughes Foundation and Marita and JB Fairbanks, as well as Alexander/Ryan Marine and Safety Company and PennWell MAPSearch. From this first set of gallery events, both the University and the city’s art community will be on the lookout for where director Schmuckli will take Blaffer.

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