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 and for over four decades, systematically developed 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 with exceptional acoustics and imposing open space. In its first year of operation, the University Museum attracted over 30,000 visitors including national and international guests.
The University Museum establishes Texas Southern as the only HBCU in the Southwest to have a museum of art of such stature. For the immediate and surrounding community served by Texas Southern University, the University Museum offers an elegant setting in which to enjoy the beauty of world cultures. Universities, Public and Private schools, families and interest groups frequently schedule tours and participate in Museum activities. The museum is the permanent home of the mural masterpiece "Web of Life" by John Biggers. In this generous setting, the mural serves as focal point of insight into the beauty and complexity of 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 University’s department of Fine Arts.
The University Museum today, continues its mission of sustaining and contributing to the rich culture and history of African and African American Art through unique events, competition, exhibitions, and educational programming.
In efforts to support young emerging artists the University Museum along with faculty members of Texas Southern University initiated 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 purpose