The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston names the new director of a prestigious art school

The only museum-affiliated art school in the country that serves K-3 students now has a new head. Paul Coffeya longtime leader at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is the new director of the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Coffey succeeds beloved Glassell director Joseph Havel, who is stepping down after a 30-year career. The new director starts on July 18, according to an announcement from the MFAH.

“Paul Coffey brings to the Glassell School of Art and to Houston an extraordinary commitment to art, education and community,” MFAH Director Gary Tinterow said in a statement, “a commitment he has demonstrated for two decades in leadership roles at the famed School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I know he will bring thoughtful leadership to the Glassell School, so central to the Museum’s educational and artistic mission and which, under the direction of Joe Havel, has become a center of creativity.

Most recently, Coffey served as Vice Provost and Dean of Community Engagement at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for the past 11 years.

There, he is credited with spearheading a series of innovative community-focused programs. These include: SAIC at Homan Square, the school’s campus in Chicago’s underserved North Lawndale neighborhood, offering free art and design programming for residents of all ages, courses leading to a for SAIC students and an artist-in-residence program.

Other work includes intensive summer courses for military veterans with PTSD, in collaboration with CreatiVets; and the College Arts Access Program in Continuing Studies, a free three-year college pathway program for Chicago public school students with artistic talent and financial need.

Academically, Coffey also oversaw the planning and implementation of new programs at SAIC, including the MFA Low Residency, Master of Architecture, Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies, Master of Design in Designed Objects , the Bachelor of Arts in Visual Critical Studies, BA with emphasis in writing and BA with emphasis in art history, theory and criticism, according to his biography.
He received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989; an MFA in art and design from the University of Chicago in 1992; and completed the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, in 2018, according to a statement.

A longtime resident of Chicago, Coffey recounts Houston Chronicle‘s Andrew Dansby that he was inspired by Houston and the MFAH long before he worked here. “Having studied art all my life, being an art student since I was a teenager, I discovered the Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel,” he says. “I studied painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.”

Kayleen C. Rice