The University Museum at Texas Southern University has for over a decade, presented the City of Houston and the world beyond with some of the most interesting and exciting art created by African and African American artists. Through the Permanent Collection of Art as well as special exhibitions the museum continues to focus on the richness and global heritage of the Art of the African Diaspora. Our exhibitions, programming, and symposiums bring the best art, the best minds and the patrons of art together.
In efforts to support young emerging artists the University Museum along with faculty members of Texas Southern University initated the WHEEL Project in August 2013. The Wheel Project is an art dialogue and research tool, targeted on evaluating the viability of a central virtual repository of artist accomplishments and information for education purposes.
The University Museum is the realization of a dream that began with the very first administration of Texas Southern University and was kept alive by dedicated faculty of the Fine Arts Department. In 1949, President R. O'Hare Lanier promoted the idea of a "Museum of Negro Arts and History." Dr. John T. Biggers, Carroll Harris Simms and other art faculty promoted the concept in their teaching philosophy by systematically developing over four decades a unique collection of African and African American art with a major focus on the work of TSU art majors.
Fifty-one years after Dr. Lanier's initial proposal the University Museum officially opened its doors on April 12, 2000. The architects of the University Museum, Rey de la Reza and Darrell Fitzgerald, successfully maintained the integrity of the original Fairchild building structure while emphasizing the elegant beauty and contemporary grandeur inherent in the space. In this 11,000 square foot exhibition space, historical meets the contemporary.
The acoustics of the museum are exceptional and the music of classical violinist Rachael Jordan and jazz pianist Jason Moran have been among the many outstanding musicians who have brought the museum to life. In its first year of operation, the Museum welcomed 30,000 visitors, many of whom had never before been on the TSU campus and a number of whom were from states and countries outside of the U.S.
The University Museum establishes Texas Southern as the only HBCU in the Southwest to have a museum of art of such stature. For the community served by Texas Southern University and especially the immediate area, the University Museum offers and elegant setting in which to enjoy the beauty of world cultures, public schools and churches frequently schedule tours and educational activities at the Museum. The museum is the permanent home of the mural masterpiece "Web of Life" by John Biggers. In this generous setting the mural can be truly studied to gain insight into the beauty and complexity of the African & African American people. Similarly, the outstanding terra cotta sculptures created by students of Professor Carroll Harris Simms form a unique complement to the environment and reflect the ascetics and standards of the art department at the University.
From the Director's Corner
As we experience the challenges of a post Harvey Houston, I want to bring you up to date on the physical state of all the art on Texas Southern’s campus. We have been blessed to have no damage to either the University Museum facility or our art collections. Several times during the hurricane between the bands of rains, I came over to check on the museum and the collections. I was thrilled and relieved each time to see that we remained high and dry. Those collections in off site storage were also not damaged.
On a more pressing front, however, I am sure that many of you have read and heard about the damage caused to Dr.Biggers’s mural “The Contributions of Negro Women to American Life and Education”. Unfortunately, due to heavy rain and roof leaks; the mural sustained major damage in the form of mold.
The good news is that a group of conservators from the National Conservation and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston have worked tirelessly to stabilize the mural until the roof can be repaired and replaced. The preservation of the mural will be a long-term process and though there is federal aid in the form of emergency grants. Most importantly, with your support we can get this done.
There is always a silver lining in even the worst of times and indeed, this is what happening now in our community. Conservation friends from Yale University have been in touch with us and they have been instrumental in connecting me to resources to save the photography of Dr.Thomas Freeman whose home was flooded. The four students who attended the Yale Conservation workshop for HBCU’s were asked by Steve Pine, conservator at the MFAH, to attend on Saturday September 23rd the all day workshop “ Saving what you can; Recovery and Stabilization of Flood Damage Art and Collections at Bayou Bend on conservation practices to preserve works after a major hurricane. They shadowed the conservators during their demonstrations and documented on video the procedures for preserving photographs, books and works on paper. The students left that conference knowledgeable now in best practices in art conservation during such an emergency. Bravo!
As resilient as Houston is, all of our arts institutions are moving forward with a full and rich schedule of art events. We invite you to visit us at UMuse and view the amazing talent currently on view in our alumni biannual “Homecoming 2017”. You will be renewed by the beauty and power of these works of art created by 27 TSU art alumni. Hope to see you at UMuse soon.
Keeping the Faith in HTown!
Alvia J. Wardlaw