Sunday, August 23, 2009

Press Releezzee

Turrell, Skyspace

( - Thanks to a multimillion-dollar gift from Rice University alumna Suzanne Deal Booth, Rice will install a work by celebrated American artist James Turrell on its campus. This is the single largest gift by a Rice alum for a piece of art and another milestone in the university's $1 billion Centennial Campaign.

An initial gift allowed Rice to commission the artwork last year. Turrell has submitted designs for a "skyspace"; an experiential work of art that fuses light and space.

The artwork will stand in front of Rice's Shepherd School of Music. One of the most important features of the installation will be its visibility, it can be seen from some high-rises around Houston and in the Texas Medical Center.

"When I thought about making this gift, it was never a question of whether or not this art would be public," Deal Booth said. "Of course it would be public. Access to art is so important, especially at a university. I want students and the community to be able to experience this extraordinary artwork as part of their everyday life."

The Meeting

Turrell has two other major projects in Houston -- the Live Oak Friends Meeting House and The Light Inside, an interior installation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Turrell piece will give us a reflective space. It says 'you are welcome here'. That's especially appropriate at Rice, where our campus is about contemplation and interaction."

"Art is my thing – it's what motivates me and directs me," Deal Booth said. "I connect with other people through art. This gift is a culmination of many of my interests, and I hope it will inspire others as my time at Rice inspired me." Greatly influenced by legendary Houston art collector and philanthropist Dominique de Menil, Deal Booth developed a deep appreciation for art preservation and philanthropy. With her recent gift, Deal Booth said she hopes to honor de Menil’s legacy and create her own. “Suzanne has given a transformational gift to Rice,” said Molly Hubbard, university art director. “The work by James Turrell will be monumental and will greatly enhance the momentum for the Rice public art program.”

Deal Booth has been deeply involved in building public art momentum. With her support, Rice has established a three-part collaboration with the museums of Houston: a postdoctoral program with the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston ( MFAH ); a biennial lecture series with the Menil Collection that brings top scholars to Houston to speak about their research, and funds to support small exhibitions at the MFAH that will be developed with a Rice art historian and a curator at the museum.

That collaboration contributes to the university's goal to engage more broadly with the city of Houston and also serves as a living laboratory and model for such interaction between universities and cities around the world. Deal Booth has contributed to the Rice School of Humanities' hiring of up to nine fellows each year from MFAH's prestigious Glassell School of Art. Those fellows have taught 33 studio classes and brought fresh talent and expertise to the campus. Deal Booth also supports the Biennial Menil/Rice Lecture Series, which were organized in 2006 as a collaborative venture between the Menil Collection and Rice's Department of Art History to link the university with neighboring cultural institutions.

"Suzanne's love of Rice and her commitment to Rice have helped make us a better institution, and it’s her gift and much more that made this possible," Leebron said. "We wouldn't be doing something of this scale -- we wouldn't have Turrell art -- if not for the person Suzanne is. She brings vision to everything she does and helped us define what we needed. She guided us to do something bold in the arts, not just something incremental."

A native Texan, Deal Booth graduated from Rice in art history. Beginning by working with de Menil then earning her M.A. degree in art history and a certificate in art conservation at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, Deal Booth has made a career of preserving art and history. She has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Menil Collection and at the Museums of New Mexico with a grant from the Smithsonian Institution. A postgraduate fellowship, funded by the Kress Foundation, took her to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where she restored important 20th century paintings. She then moved to Los Angeles to work at the Getty Conservation Institute and later as a consultant for the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Deal Booth and her husband, David, created the Booth Heritage Foundation, which provides many cultural activities and community services, and founded the Friends of Heritage Preservation, a nonprofit organization that responds to critical preservation needs in the U.S. and abroad. They also established the Booth Family Rome Prize Fellowship for Historic Preservation and Conservation at the American Academy in Rome. Deal Booth recently started a publishing company, Orsini Press. She also published an essay in the forthcoming "Art and Activism: Projects of John and Dominique de Menil" and occasionally blogs for the Huffington Post.


Vanessa Tanith VanAlstyne said...

now if rice would do the city a favor and get a blasted MFA program, this would be the best news eva!

Robert Boyd said...

Does the city need more than one MFA program?

Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if Rice did add an MFA program. They are expanding like crazy.