UH and MFAH Announce Partnership Focused on Latino/Latin American Art & Culture

Collaboration Offers UH Students Unprecedented Access to Museum Resources

HOUSTON—June 6, 2018—From the classroom to the museum, the University of Houston and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, are joining forces to provide students with extraordinary museum work experience coupled with a Tier One graduate education in art history. Digital Humanities and Object-Based Learning in the Museum and University Context is an innovative long-term partnership between the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and the University of Houston. The collaboration, initially aided by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, now promises to create an internationally recognized environment for the study of Latin American and Latino art and culture.

“The University has taken great strides to partner with the arts community in Houston,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Through this partnership, we can offer students a wealth of resources to further their ties to the community and Latino heritage.”

“The partnership formalizes the long-standing collaboration between UH and the MFAH, and highlights the roles of the MFAH and ICAA as leaders in Latin American art history and scholarship,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “The Museum holds one of the most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary Latin American art anywhere in the world and we are pleased to provide these exceptional resources to students at the University of Houston.”

Today, the MFAH and UH participated in a ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that includes the Art History Program at the UH Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, the Department of Hispanic Studies in the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, UH Library Special Collections at the MD Anderson Library, and the ICAA. Students may follow the Master of Arts in Art History or apply to a new and innovative Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies. The latter program incorporates significant art historical studies in a bilingual Spanish/English environment. 

As part of the multifaceted learning process, students will have the opportunity to participate in year-long, paid internships with the ICAA. This has been a continuous feature of the UH graduate program in Art History since 2009, when UH placed its first intern in the MFAH’s prestigious research center for Latin American and Latino art. With the signing of the Memorandum, UH students will now benefit from access to previously restricted resources from the Latin American and Latino art collections and digital archival holdings of the MFAH. Moreover, UH faculty and MFAH staff will use their ongoing innovations in object-based learning as the basis for continued collaboration in the burgeoning area. The hope is that this partnership will serve as a model for other museums and research universities across the country.

Students can also participate in annual graduate and undergraduate seminars on object-based learning focused on the document and research activities of the ICAA as well as the Latin American and Latino art collections at the MFAH, team-taught by UH faculty and MFAH staff. Workshops; a biannual colloquium; and ad-hoc scholarly collaboration on the intersection of archives, object-based learning, and the digital humanities are also planned.

“This partnership consolidates and amplifies the offerings of the ICAA, its internationally recognized Documents Project platform, and its broad network of researchers and research institutions from all over the Americas and the Caribbean,” said Mari Carmen Ramírez, MFAH curator and ICAA director. “We are continuing to build on what these unique, incredible resources offer in the study of Latin American and Latino art, in tandem with my colleague Caroline Goeser, chair of the department of learning and interpretation at the Museum, and the exceptional faculty at UH.”

Operating as the headquarters of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research for the next five years, UH is already leading the charge of fostering collaborations between faculty in Latino/a research. Hispanics make up 31 percent of the student population at UH, which is a reflection of the greater Houston region. These new initiatives support the institution’s commitment to education and preserving a vibrant cultural heritage.

“We understand the history of humanity through art; therefore, this unique collaboration between UH and the MFAH will give our students an opportunity to increase their knowledge about Latin American and Latino artists who have contributed some of the most beautiful, thought-provoking, and iconic works of art that exist today,” said Antonio D. Tillis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and M.D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies.           

About the MFAH
Established in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States, with an encyclopedic collection of more than 65,000 works dating from antiquity to the present. The main campus comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building, originally designed by William Ward Watkin, with extensions by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1958 and 1974; and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986. Additional spaces include a repertory cinema, two libraries, public archives, and facilities for conservation and storage. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the Glassell School of Art and its acclaimed Core Residency Program and Junior and Studio Schools; and the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art.

About the Latin American Art Initiative at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Latin American art initiative at the MFAH is comprised of the Latin American art department and its research arm, the ICAA. Established in 2001, the purpose of this dual initiative is to collect, exhibit, research, and educate audiences about the diverse artistic production of Latin Americans and Latinos, which includes artists from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, and artists of Latin American descent living and working in the United States.

The Latin American art department at the MFAH has acquired more than 800 works of modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino art. It has also established the Partners in Art program with the Fundación Gego in Caracas, the Cruz-Diez Foundation in Paris, and the Brillembourg Capriles Latin American Art Collection in Miami, all of which provide long-term loans to the MFAH for use in exhibitions, research, and publications. The cornerstone project of the ICAA is the Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art: A Digital Archive and Publications Project, which provides free global access to over 12,000 primary sources related to this art. Since its inception, the ICAA has organized four international symposia and published 17 books and catalogues.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 45,000 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.

About Object-Based Learning
Object-based learning (OBL) is a relatively new practice within higher education, with proven successes in integrating objects from art, archaeological, and science museums into college curriculum. The UH and MFAH partnership critically takes object-based learning to the next level, recognizing that objects may take many forms beyond works of art and artifacts, to include primary documents (whether original or their digital facsimiles), archival materials, and born-digital materials (both images and texts). These materials are vital components of object-centered study. The partnership also recognizes the critical role within OBL of the Digital Humanities, an area of scholarly activity at the intersection of computing, digital technologies, and the disciplines of the humanities—art history in particular.

Media Contacts        
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Sarah Hobson, publicist
713.800.5345 / shobson@mfah.org

University of Houston
Sara Tubbs, senior media relations specialist
713.743.4249 / sstubbs2@uh.edu