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The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

‘An evening with Frank Stella’ kicks off the 50th anniversary of The Public Art of UH System

PHOTO: "Euphonia" Vaults in the entry way to Moore's Opera House. Photo courtesy of Michaela Dillman.
“Euphonia” Vaults in the entryway to Moore’s Opera House. Photo courtesy of Michaela Dillman.

The Public Art of the University of Houston System held “An evening with Frank Stella” at Moore’s Opera House to celebrate both the 20th anniversary of Stella’s commission “Euphonia” and a kick-off event of the 50th anniversary the creation of Public Art of the University of Houston System (UHS).

Frank Stella is one of America’s most well-known post-war painters and sculptors. In addition to accolades in the United States, such as receiving the National Medal of Arts by former President Obama in 2009 and having numerous exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Stella has achieved international recognition.

The cast of other names in the conversation are notable internationally and to Houston as well. The guest’s conversationalists were not just chosen for their prestige in the art world, but also for their relation to Stella’s work.

The others in conversation included: Founding President of the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Don Bacigalupi; Isabel Brown Wilson Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at MFAH Alison de Lima Greene and founder of Project Row Houses as well as leading faculty member of the University of Houston’s MA Public Art program Rick Lowe.

Greene met Frank when he worked under nationally recognized American painter Stephen Greene, her father, at Princeton University. She has continued to keep in contact with Stella as a friend and a curator.

Bacigalupi and Lowe both have experience with public art conversations. Lowe’s experience comes as a person whose career considers the dialogue of public art and questions of accessibility of art to all communities, like those of color and on the lower-end, socio-economically. Bacigalupi was the director of UH’s Blaffer Museum at the time of the “Euphonia” commission and installation.

The talk itself was a flow of conversation about 30 pre-chosen images projected behind the conversation.

At one point during the evening, Stella explained what attracted him to public art. 

“It is natural to want to participate,” Stella said. “As antisocial we [artist] are, we want to participate.”

The Public Art of UHS has taken the accessibility aspect of public art online by recently starting a Youtube channel to provide further access to resources and context to their public art collection.

The location of the Moore’s Opera House was not chosen because it is a beautiful place to discuss art on a University of Houston campus, but also because the “Euphonia” Installation is in the music hall in rooms. In the main music hall the form of a large scale triptych on the mezzanine level and the vaults outside of the music hall. “Euphonia” is the largest artwork in the public art collection. The triptych is 10-feet tall and 72-feet wide.

PHOTO: "Euphonia" Triptych inside the music hall of Moore's Opera House. Photo courtesy of @UHPhilanthropy's Twitter.
“Euphonia” Triptych inside the music hall of Moore’s Opera House. Photo courtesy of @UHPhilanthropy’s Twitter.

This project took nine months to complete and featured 32 studio assistants and an additional few dozen of studio volunteers of all ages on two designated “paint days.”

At the end of the project, though Stella said he enjoyed the resulting work and experience, he noted in “The Making of Frank Stella’s Houston Mural” that it was humbling and comforting to come back to a studio to work on smaller projects that he would previously see as boring and solitary. 

This evening (with the live-stream) and the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Public Art of the UHS is being continued with the promotion of “The Making of Frank Stella’s Houston Mural” and public art tours.