Patron of arts and music dies

Jane Blaffer Owen (second from left), “strongly believed in the transformative power of art,” Blaffer Art Museum Director Claudia Schmuckli said. Owen last visited the museum in fall 2009 for the Jon Pylypchuk and Josephine Meckseper exhibitions. | Bill Ashley/Blaffer Art Museum

The UH Blaffer Art Museum benefactor, arts patron and philanthropist Jane Blaffer Owen, 95, died last week in her Houston home.

Owen held a life-long dedication to art, culture and history.

“Her passion for the arts, and her continuing support for UH were unsurpassed. She has enriched our campus in so many ways,” UH President Renu Khator said. “Her memory will live on in the contributions that have helped make UH a more beautiful and gracious place.”

Daughter of ExxonMobil founder Robert Lee Blaffer and granddaughter of Texaco founder William T. Campbell, Owen was known for her generous donations in both Houston and New Harmony, Ind.

Owen created the Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation to preserve and promote New Harmony, Ind., the town in which she honeymooned in 1941.

Her work has earned her numerous honors and awards, including the 2008 Louise Dupont Crowninshield Award, the highest commendation presented by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Also, the 2007 Sachem, Indiana’s highest honor given to one person each year in recognition of them bringing honor to Indiana through excellence and virtue.

Although much of her time was spent in New Harmony, Blaffer Art Museum Director Claudia Schmuckli said that whenever Owen was in Houston, she would visit the museum regularly.

“She particularly enjoyed coming to the student and Young Artist Apprenticeship exhibitions, and engaged the students in conversations about their work,” Schmuckli said.

“Mrs. Owen strongly believed in the transformative power of art and considered it an integral and necessary part of a rounded education.”

In addition to her devotion to the Blaffer Art Museum, which was established in 1973 and named after her mother, Owen was also a supporter of the Moores School of Music and Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture.

“Her donation of artworks to the university and her life-long support of the Blaffer are demonstrative of her way to ensure that every student at UH would have access to great art,” Schmuckli said.

Her work in Houston, however, is not limited to the University. Owen served as a trustee of the C.G. Jung Educational Center, first president of the Allied Arts Council, an early organizer of the Seaman’s Center and board member of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, also named after her mother.

“(Owen presented) a world where idealism, creativity, equality, intellectual pursuit and religious and political tolerance were valued highly,” Schmuckli said.

Schmuckli feels that Owen’s work, both in Houston and New Harmony, has left people feeling invigorated, enriched and hopeful.

“Her commitment to the arts was exemplary and we are deeply affected by her loss,” Schmuckli said.

Owen is survived by two daughters, Jane Dale Owen and Anne Dale Owen.

The funeral service will be held in Houston, while an official memorial service will follow two weeks later, on July 25, in New Harmony.

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