Blaffer Art Museum

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Blaffer Art Museum
Blaffer Workac.jpg
LocationUniversity of Houston
DirectorToby Kamps

Blaffer Art Museum is the contemporary art museum located in the Arts District of the University of Houston campus. It was founded in 1973 and has won several awards, including the Coming Up Taller Award as part of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.[1] The museum exhibits national and international artists as well as artwork by students.


The Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery was founded in 1973,[2] named in honor of the late Sarah Campbell Blaffer, who during her lifetime made available to the University a collection of major artworks dating from the 15th century to modern day. This collection was purchased in 1979 by the Blaffer Foundation, an independent organization which is unrelated to the museum and the University. The income from the investment of the sale proceeds provides a portion of Blaffer Gallery's program budget. The Blaffer Art Museum has presented over 250 exhibitions. The current exhibition policy, adopted by the Advisory Board and University Regents in 1986, focuses upon art of the past 100 years and its artistic, cultural and intellectual antecedents. In 1999, the museum expanded.

View of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery during its founding year, March 1973

The museum created and hosts education and outreach programs. In 1988, UHReach was founded and in 1998 Young Artists Apprenticeship Program (YAAP) was founded.

In 2008, the gallery acquired 149 photographs taken by Andy Warhol as a gift from the Andy Warhol Foundation.[3] The photographs were featured in an exhibition entitled “Celebutants, Groupies and Friends” at the gallery. The collection included photographs of Jamie Lee Curtis, Billy Squier, late Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell, Pia Zadora, and others.

The Blaffer Art Museum was honored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services on November 4, 2009 when first lady Michelle Obama awarded the gallery with the Coming Up Taller Award.[1] The award gives $10,000 to art programs that help underprivileged youth.[4]

In 2010, Blaffer Gallery was renamed to Blaffer Art Museum.[5]


It presents and originates between six and eight exhibitions annually. The annual schedule may include major traveling exhibitions that have a particular relevance to Houston audiences; mid-sized retrospectives of national and international artists; exhibitions of regional artists; thematic surveys which place artists' work into new contexts; and special projects by local artists. Blaffer Gallery is dedicated to conducting original scholarship and research in contemporary art history. The museum frequently forges collaborative partnerships from among Houston's wealth of cultural organizations and educational institutions. Exhibition-related public programs and activities complement and elucidate each exhibition, from casual Brown Bag Lunch Tours to lively audience interaction during their "Contemporary Salons."

Exhibitions organized by Blaffer Art Museum include the Houston Area Exhibition, presented every four years and open to artists residing within 100 miles of downtown Houston; jurors for the 2000 Houston Area Exhibition honed 1,600 entries down to a dazzling presentation of emerging and established local talent. The 1997 exhibition, Michael Ray Charles: An American Artist's Work drew more than 10,000 visitors and traveled to the Austin Museum of Art and the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Ohio; the two-volume catalogue won the First Prize for Publications from the American Association of Museums. Traveling exhibitions, selected for specific regional interests, have also proven to be blockbusters: the fascinating paintings, works on paper and assemblages of Spirited Journeys: Self Taught Texas Artists (1998); Luis Jimenez: Working Class Heroes (1999); Donald Lipski: A Brief History of Twine (2001) and the Here & There/Aquí y Allá: Six Artists from San Juan (2002).

In 2008, the museum attained a gift of photographs by Andy Warhol. They were featured in the exhibit: “Celebutants, Groupies and Friends” in 2008.

Blaffer Art Museum is free to the public and attracts over 30,000 visitors annually.


In 1988, Blaffer Gallery began a unique educational program for school children, UHReach. This program is now recognized nationally as an exemplary, multi-faceted outreach initiative. Blaffer has built intensive relationships with 18 elementary, middle and high schools in the neighborhoods surrounding the museum and UHReach serves schools from 24 area districts. Students from University of Houston and Texas Southern University are extensively trained and employed as docents for UHReach. They lead dialogue-based tours of the exhibitions and also visit school classrooms to conduct pre- and post-tour activities.

In 1998 the Blaffer Gallery founded the Young Artists Apprenticeship Program (YAAP), which provides a free after-school arts program to at-risk and special needs high school students. It is a six-week, after-school workshop and provides an in-depth exploration of an artistic medium, such as printmaking or videography. Students work with Blaffer staff and University of Houston students to create art, study current exhibitions and take field trips to local museums and galleries. The program finishes with a final project which is displayed in a museum exhibition and the top two students in the program win college scholarships.[6]


Education programs are central to Blaffer Art Museum's mission to serve as a resource for the study of art, art history and other related disciplines. By extending the educational and scholarly programs of the University to the community, the museum promotes learning as a continuous process, linking contemporary ideas and people. Through a broad range of programs, Blaffer presents enriching museum experiences while providing arts education opportunities for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.


  1. ^ a b "IMLS Director Anne Radice and First Lady Michelle Obama Honor Arts and Education Programs for Underserved Youth". Institute of Museum and Library Services. Archived from the original on 9 April 2010. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
  2. ^ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center Archived February 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Emery, Mike (2008-08-05). "Rare Andy Warhol Photos Obtained By UH Art Collection". University of Houston. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  4. ^ "First Lady honors Blaffer Gallery". The Daily Cougar. Archived from the original on December 13, 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
  5. ^ "Museum History". Blaffer Art Museum. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  6. ^ "Michelle Obama Presents Honors to UH's Blaffer Gallery". University of Houston. Retrieved 11 November 2009.

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Coordinates: 29°43′29″N 95°20′33″W / 29.72472°N 95.34250°W / 29.72472; -95.34250