Evolution of UH’s Public Art Program

Activities & Organizations

Dorothy Hood exhibit in the University’s Special Collections. | James Schillinger/The Cougar

Students are exposed to a variety of artwork, but behind the creativity lies a complex process to bring the sketch to life.

That of the University public art The system houses various styles of artwork from renowned artists and provides the opportunity to understand behind the scenes of each exhibit and room.

Public Art Program Manager, Ileana Yordan, shared an overview of the exhibition presentation process as well as a brief history of how UH System’s public art process was established.

“In 1969 UH has made its first official acquisition which is Orbit One and Orbit Two by Japanese-American artist Masaharu Takiguchi,” Yordan said. “So it was a really interesting acquisition, and then we acquired our first outdoor sculpture, Albertus Magnus in 1970.”

Since then, multiple acquisitions have been made, turning the campus into its own open-air museum, Yordan said. The UH system also worked to display public art across all of its campuses and universities.


In the special collections department of the library there is an exhibition dedicated to Dorothy Hood and his works of art.

The exhibition titled “The Edge of Being” features the Texas-born artist’s archival works from childhood through his later years.

“This exhibit is a variety of paintings and collages by Dorothy Hood, but also some of her own objects from her studio, brushes, a variety of ephemera and archival material from her clothing collection,” Yordan said. .

The exhibition will be available long term until March 2023.

A recent work by Mouna Al Bader is his “Cultural Bonds” mural that connects his experience in Houston and his hometown, Doha.

“She was so inspired to be here on campus and talking to students that she added these quotes that speak to the importance of education,” said Lauren Cross, public programs and outreach manager.

Al-Bader uses the color blue in all of her paintings as a symbolic way for her to remember and honor her ancestors, according to Cross.

In March 2022, an “Instantaneous Beauty” program on by Andy Warhol the photograph became open for view at UH Downtown where UH Systems received approximately 100 images showcasing his legacy, Yordan said.

The show is a traveling exhibit that will be on display at UHD until April 6, then move to UH Clear Lake.

“And this exhibition is an opportunity for us to showcase the collection in a way that puts it in conversation with some of his finished artworks and works by some of his contemporaries,” Yordan said.

Located in the Arts District of campus, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts is home to some key work by former UH faculty.

Al Souza’s “Windows on the World” features an untraditional piece of pop art made from fragmented puzzles.

“It’s called Windows on the World, the idea being that you have all of these windows, but also create this kind of global shape,” Cross said.

“The Flower Woman” by James Surls is a modern sculpture made of pine, oak and gum wood.

According to the Public Art department, Surls liked to let the structure of the wood dictate the shape of the sculpture.

“Usually it’s very rewarding to look a little longer or a little closer, which I think is something you know sometimes, with works like this,” Cross said.

In addition to free public arts tours, a variety of workshops for students to learn about art from respected artists are available as an on-campus resource.

Strategic planning is done by the UH Public Art Committee which approves all projects and initiatives explored.

According to Yordan, the diversification of collections is a priority to ensure the representation of artists from different backgrounds.

Another crucial step for the public art department is to determine the placement and accessibility of each work. Reassessing the location and access to art is an ongoing process for the committee to ensure better visibility.

“We consider disabled access and general public access,” Yordan said. “We want to make sure that all of the artwork in our collection, which is on display, is accessible and not hidden away or locked away in places that cannot be seen or experienced.”

Computer Engineering Technology Junior Lama Tahan shared his appreciation for the variety of art on campus as well as the uniqueness of each room.

“Personally, my favorite piece of art is the college of technology mural called Cultural Bonds because I really love seeing it through my eyes and what it means to me in relation to education and culture,” Tahan said. “I appreciate the message it conveys to me and love the different colors, styles and techniques used in the artwork. Overall, the artwork on campus is unique, diverse and very fun to watch.”

The public art system has experienced a transition in its operations from being a collecting organization to operating as a museum.

Regarding the future of UH public art, Cross shared that in addition to having a permanent collection, there is a temporary program for all emerging artists in Houston to apply and create proposals to bring to fruition. .

“They usually give us a budget, a sketch and a plan of what the artwork will be,” Cross said. “From there, and then we decide from there, you know, is it doable? Is it affordable? Is it possible to get out of it? Does that sort of eliminate our collection? So there are a lot of people like cooks in the kitchen deciding what art will be put on campus.

Members of the UH Public Art Committee share that they continue to work to expand their reach and what they can offer while creating opportunities for the community to get involved.

“It’s just an exciting time to be a part of UH Public Art because it’s in a period of growth right now,” Yordan said. “Giving access to the student population, to people who don’t normally visit a museum or typically go to a gallery, it brings art to them in an educational environment.”

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Key words: Art Across Campus, Public Art, University Art Collection

Kayleen C. Rice