Moody Foundation awards $20 million to Rice University for new Center for the Arts

The Moody Foundation has awarded $20 million to Rice University for a new Center for the Arts on campus. The interdisciplinary center will provide space for arts education, performances and gallery exhibitions on campus and promote collaborations with Houston’s world-class art museums.

“The arts at Rice have been significantly enhanced over the past decade, and the Moody Center for the Arts will enable Rice University to take an important step to provide suitable space to serve an increasing recognition of the importance of the arts across disciplines,” said President David Leebron. “Importantly, this building will enable Rice to enrich its relationships with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), the Menil Collection and the city’s other exceptional art institutions, and be a great resource for the city as well as the campus. We are forever grateful to the Moody Foundation for its generous support of the arts at Rice and in Houston.”

A 50,000-square-foot building for the Moody Center currently in the predesign phase would provide three types of space: lecture and studio classrooms for arts making and collaboration; a theater venue for experimental and smaller-scale productions; and galleries both for exhibition of faculty and students work and curated exhibits by Rice and jointly with the museums of Houston.

“The Moody Center will foster creativity in arts much like Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen enables creativity in engineering,” said Caroline Levander, vice provost for interdisciplinary initiatives, who will oversee the center along with a faculty director funded with an endowed position. “The center will provide space for arts creation and collaboration that we don’t have on campus and complement our existing facilities devoted to the arts.”

Levander said the new center should help recruit highly talented faculty and students in the visual and performing arts.

“There’s a trend in elite higher education to build art centers on campus and raise awareness of the arts,” Levander said. She noted that consultants from the University of Chicago and Princeton, Duke and Harvard universities were brought in to assess Rice’s needs and potential in the arts. “But Rice is different from its peers because of the university’s proximity to Houston’s Museum District and the level of partnerships it has already established with MFAH, the Menil Collection, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Glassell School of Art and the city’s other arts institutions,” she said.

To facilitate collaborations, Levander convened a Faculty Arts Advisory Committee that includes representatives from the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts, the Department of Art History, the Shepherd School of Music and the schools of Architecture, Humanities and Engineering. “The committee is tasked with providing valuable input on fostering creativity in the arts across disciplines,” she said.

Additional funding is needed for construction of the building, along with approval of the Rice Board of Trustees, with a tentative opening planned for 2015. The new building will be located near the current arts and media center at Entrance 8.

“The Moody Foundation’s trustees saw the potential for the Moody Center for the Arts to open new creative channels between Rice and Houston’s outstanding museum community,” said Ross Moody, a trustee of the foundation.

The Moody Foundation was established in 1942 by William L. Moody Jr. and his wife, Libbie Rice Shearn Moody, to benefit present and future Texans. The foundation, now led by descendants of the Moody family, has supported private colleges and universities and a variety of social services and health projects. Moody Gardens in Galveston, Moody Coliseum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the Moody Theater in Austin are among the beneficiaries of the foundation’s generosity.

In addition to the contribution to Rice’s Centennial Campaign for the Moody Center for the Arts, Rice has also received a number of gifts from the Moody Foundation in support of science, technology, humanities, scholarships, athletics and other educational endeavors, including the Frances Moody Newman Chair in Humanities and the W.L. Moody Jr. Scholarship Fund in Engineering.


About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.