The MFAH Appoints Paul Coffey Director of the Glassell School of Art

A longtime educator and administrator at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Coffey has led the SAIC’s academic and community-engagement programs for more than a decade

HOUSTON—JUNE 22, 2022The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced that Paul Coffey, vice provost and dean of community engagement at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has been named director of the Glassell School of Art at the MFAH. He joins the MFAH on July 18, succeeding retiring director Joseph Havel.

In announcing the appointment, Gary Tinterow, Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, commented, “Paul Coffey brings to the Glassell School of Art and to Houston an extraordinary commitment to art, education and community, one that he has demonstrated over two decades in leadership roles at the renowned School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I know that he will bring thoughtful leadership to the Glassell School, which is so essential to the Museum’s educational and artistic mission and which, under Joe Havel’s direction, became a center of creativity.”

Coffey has been Vice Provost and Dean of Community Engagement at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2011. A member of the President’s Cabinet, Paul leads the Office of Engagement, where he has created a series of innovative community-focused programs. These include SAIC at Homan Square, the School’s campus in the underserved Chicago neighborhood of North Lawndale, offering free art and design programming for community residents of all ages, degree courses for SAIC students and an artist-in-residence program; summer intensives for military veterans with PTSD, now in its seventh year as a collaboration with CreatiVets; and the College Arts Access Program in Continuing Studies, a free, three-year college-bridge program for Chicago Public Schools students with artistic talent and financial need.

Coffey has also overseen the planning and implementation of numerous new programs at SAIC, including the Low Residency MFA, Master of Architecture, Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies, Master of Design in Designed Objects, Bachelor of Arts in Visual Critical Studies, BA with emphasis in Writing and BA with emphasis in Art History, Theory and Criticism.

Coffey’s previous roles at SAIC have included Associate Dean of Academic Administration; Executive Director, Undergraduate and Graduate Divisions; Executive Director, Undergraduate Division; and Associate Director of Admissions. He also taught studio classes at SAIC from 1992 to 1998. In addition, Coffey served as co-director of the program for the American Pavilion of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Coffey 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 the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 2018. 

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Glassell School of Art
Spanning 14 acres in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the main campus comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden and the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building for modern and contemporary art. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. Additional resources include a repertory cinema; two significant research libraries, the Hirsch Library and the Powell Library and Study Center at Bayou Bend; public archives; and a conservation facility.

The Glassell School of Art was founded in 1979 and is situated on the Museum’s main campus in a Steven Holl Architects-designed building, which opened in 2018. The only museum-affiliated school in the nation serving students from pre-K through post-graduate, the Glassell School hosts a Studio School for adults, a Junior School for children and teens and the Core residency program for artists and writers. The school’s faculty conduct classes across a range of disciplines, including drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, jewelry, fashion and art history. The facility houses three dozen studio classrooms; public exhibition galleries for the presentation of student work as well as shows curated by resident fellows; and a 75-seat auditorium. The Glassell School serves more than 5,000 adults and children each year.

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