Activities & Organizations
Students are presented with a variety of artworks, but behind the creativity is a complex process to bring the sketch to life.
poohblic item no UHS is home to various styles of artwork from renowned artists and offers a behind-the-scenes look at each exhibit and piece.
Ileana Yordan, Public Art Program Manager, provided insight into the process of presenting the exhibits as well as a brief history of how UH System’s public art process was established.
“In the 1969 UH has made its first official acquisition, namely Orbit One and Orbit Two by Japanese-American artist Masaru Takiguchi,” said Yordan. “So that was a really interesting acquisition, and then in 1970 we acquired our first outdoor sculpture, Albertus Magnus.”
Since then, several acquisitions have been made that transformed the campus into its own open-air museum, Jordan said. The UH system has also worked to display public art across all of its campuses and universities.
An exhibition is dedicated to this in the Special Collections department of the library Dorothy Hood and her artwork.
Titled The Edge of Being, the exhibition features the Texas-born artist’s archival work from her infancy through her last years.
“This exhibition features a variety of paintings and collages by Dorothy Hood, but also includes some of her own objects from her studio, brushes, a variety of ephemera and archival material from her clothing collection,” Yordan said.
The exhibition can be visited until March 2023.
A recent work by Muna Al-Bader is her mural “Cultural Bonds”, which connects her experiences in Houston and her native city of Doha.
“She was so inspired to be here on a campus talking to students that she added these quotes that explore the importance of education,” said Lauren Cross, director of public programs and outreach.
Al-Bader uses the color blue in all of her paintings as a symbolic way to remember and honor her ancestors, according to Cross.
In March 2022 a show “Instantaneous Beauty” will be shown Andy Warhol’s Photographs were displayed at UH Downtown, where UH systems were gifted about 100 images highlighting his legacy, Jordan said.
The show is a traveling exhibit that will be on view at UHD through April 6th and will then move to UH Clear Lake.
“And this exhibition is an opportunity for us to elevate the collection in a way that engages it with some of his finished artwork and artwork by some of his contemporaries,” Jordan said.
The on-campus Arts District is home to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, which houses some key works by former UH professors.
Al Souza’s “Windows on the World” features an unconventional pop art piece composed of fragmented jigsaw puzzles.
“It’s called Windows on the World, the idea is you have all these windows, but you also create this kind of global shape,” Cross said.
The Flower Woman by James Surls is a modern sculpture made from pine, oak and eucalyptus wood.
According to the Department of Public Art, Surls was delighted to let the shape of the sculpture be determined by the structure of the wood.
“It’s usually very rewarding to just look a little longer or a little bit closer, which I think you’re used to with work like this sometimes,” Cross said.
In addition to the free public art tours, a variety of workshops are available on campus for students to learn about art with respected artists.
According to Jordan, diversifying the collections is a high priority to ensure artists from diverse backgrounds are represented.
Another crucial step for the Public Art department is determining the placement and accessibility of each artwork. Reassessing the location and access to the art is an ongoing process for the committee to ensure visibility is improved.
“We consider access for the disabled and access for the general public,” Jordan said. “We want to ensure that all of the artwork on display in our collection is accessible and not hidden or locked in places that cannot be seen or experienced.”
Computer Engineering Junior Lama Tahan shared her appreciation for the diversity of art on campus, as well as the uniqueness of each piece.
“Personally, my favorite piece of art is the mural at the College of Technology called Cultural Bonds because I really enjoy seeing it through my eyes and what it means to me in terms of education and culture,” Tahan said. “I appreciate the message it conveys to me and love the different colors, styles and techniques used in the artworks. Overall, the artworks on campus are unique, diverse and very entertaining to look at.”
The public art system has seen a transition in its operation from a collecting organization to a museum function.
Regarding the future of UH Public Art, Cross shared that in addition to a permanent collection, there is a temporary program for all emerging artists in Houston to apply and create proposals to make them a reality.
“Usually they give us a budget, a sketch and a plan of the artwork,” Cross said. “From there and then we decide from there, you know, is that doable? Is it affordable? Can you deduct? Does it somehow destroy our collection? So there are a lot of people who are kind of like chefs in the kitchen to decide what art comes on campus.”
Members of the UH Public Arts Committee share that they continue to work to expand their scope and offerings while creating opportunities for community participation.
“It’s just an exciting time to be separated from UH Public Art because it’s going through a period of growth,” Jordan said. “By having access to students, people who don’t typically visit a museum or typically go to a gallery space, it brings them closer to art in an educational setting.”
Correction: A previous version of this story did not refer to Public Art UHS by its full name.