It was the late 1960s when the Texas legislature enacted the One Percent for Art program to purchase art for the UH campus.
“It’s a pretty significant dedication,” said Michael Guidry, curator of the UH public art collection. “The university has been doing this since 1969, so it’s a pretty long-term investment. And it is significant. It’s important to have art around the campus so that students can have a more enriched experience when they’re here.”
UH was the first state institution to establish the program. Currently there are 450 pieces in the UH System collection, one of the largest in the country.
Artwork by John Biggers
“It’s an interesting record of art, a nice timeline of what people were doing in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, up to today,” he said. “Some pieces are of their era, but in a lot of ways they’re still relevant today.”
The collection includes names like Carlos Cruz Diez, John Biggers, Luis Jimenez, Randy Twaddle and alums, The Art Guys. A new layered piece by Kendall Buster is called “Flow” inspired by the UH College of Optometry.
“I wanted to do a project with Kendall Buster for the new Health and Biomedical Sciences building because she has a background in science before she became an artist,” Guidry said. “She started thinking of the eye and how the eye is mostly fluid, and so she wanted to make something that appeared to be fluid in a way.”
Eighteen layers of powder-coated, aluminum shapes wrapped in white PVC mesh hang from the ceiling from 100 aircraft cables. “Flow” measures 25 feet long and 16 feet wide.
Take a virtual tour of UH’s Public Art Collection
“These forms are then layered and stacked together to make this really interesting form,” he said. “She wanted to slice it up like lenses are layered over each other, but it also looks like land strata, so it has multiple references.”
All the UH System campuses house pieces of the Public Art Collection.
Flow by Kendall Buster
“Living with art is very different than going to view art in a gallery or museum,” Guidry said. “It’s an important way to experience art.”
The Public Art Collection is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.
Luis Jimenez’s Fiesta Dancers (l) and the Art Guys’ Statue of Four Lies (r)